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Note:
* Cynthia is the Godmother of this fanfic, I do so proclaim! ;) Yup, it was her challenge that did inspire this little piece of work and she has also helped me when certain characters *cough, Maya, cough* chose not to write themselves. *winks* Also, Suzy beta-read this fic for me in record time. So thank you to both Cynthia and Suzy. :)

Reflection Of Love
Written By: WhiteZeo

"You're kidding?!" Maya laughed gleefully, leaning back against the trunk of the tree she was sitting in. "Which two?"

The Wolf Galactabeast, to who Maya had been chatting with, growled and grunted a reply with something resembling a grin spread across its mouth.

"No!" Maya gasped in surprise, also grinning now. "Lion and Wildcat?"

Her zord nodded an anxious and happy answer to the Yellow Ranger's question.

Maya jumped down from her perch on a branch high up in the tree and laughed, gazing up at her friend. "Wait 'til Leo and Karone hear about this!"

*****

"...nine, ten! Ready or not, here I come!" Leo Corbett announced loudly, lifting his head up from his arms. Slowly, climbing from the chair he had been sitting in, he glanced around the empty-looking park.

"Where is everyone?" he feigned a bit of confusion, and when he did a few giggles emerged from behind a bush a few feet away from him. Leo grinned to himself in silent triumph. "Now," he crept towards the bushes and peeked behind them to see two children crouching, trying to stifle their giggles, "see! I found you!"

The two children tried running away, but Leo scooped them up into his arms and swung them around once before setting them down on the grass. They scurried away giggling, as the young man went on with his job of finding the rest of the hiding kids.

"Yoohoo!" he cupped his hands around his mouth and hollered. He spotted three more kids behind a park bench and moved towards them, trying not to let on that he knew where they were. "Come out, come out wherever you are!"

Creeping on his tiptoes, Leo stealthy surprise the little children by crying out, "Here you are!"

"Hey!" one little girl climbed up on the bench and stood nose to chest with the Red Galaxy Ranger. "You cheated!"

"What?!" Leo sputtered out in shock, laughing.

Before the girl could answer, an older voice called out, "Molly! Time to go!"

Leo spun around to see a group of parents heading towards them, while most of the kids started jumping out of their hiding places and ran to meet their parents. "Bye!" he waved good-bye to all of his little friends, while some of the parents and children also waved good-bye.

Once they had all gone and the small area of the park where they had been playing was pretty sparce, Leo sighed and plopped onto the ground happily. "Looks I won the game today," he chuckled softly to himself, running a hand through his hair.

For a minute or two, he just sat there musing upon the day's events when a whisper gently caressed his ear. "You haven't found me yet..." the voice trailed off in a teasing manner.

A slow, deliberate grin curved onto his lips. "You know that really drives me crazy," he remarked, his voice soft and smooth. "It's not fair. You have magic and I don't."

"Deal with it," the feminine voice retorted playfully. "If you come and find me...I'll stop."

Leo did as the voice demanded of him and stood up off the ground, brushing some of the grass off of his jeans. "Where are you?"

"Leo, we're playing 'Hide and Seek'. The point is for you to find me without telling you!"

"Oh, alright," he relented with a small laugh, as he started looking around the area for his hiding friend. He wandered around the small area for a few minutes, looking behind each tree, bush and bench and didn't find her. "I give up!" he exclaimed with a sigh, falling onto his back underneath a tree. He gazed upwards, and then let out a whoop of laughter.

Up in the branches of the tree was the elusive Karone.

"You didn't look hard enough," she teased, jumping from the tree and landing directly beside Leo's lying form. She kneeled beside him and gently brushed his bangs away from his forehead with her fingers.

"You always say I don't look hard enough," Leo whispered gently into her ear, pulling Karone down to lay beside him. He took her hand into his own, caressing it softly.

"And you always complain about it," she murmured back, rolling her hand through his hair, gently messing it.

They both were silent for awhile, relishing the loving touches each was giving the other. Then slowly, Leo slid him arm around Karone's waist, pulled her in closely and kissed her passionately. Karone had expected the gesture and quickly retaliated by returning the kiss full-force with her own equal passion.

The two rolled around in the grass like mad lovers for a long time, kissing each other anywhere they could find a piece of bare skin. Soon enough, Karone pulled away and rested against Leo's chest. Her breath ragged, she murmured softly, "Maybe we should go somewhere?"

*****

Karone brushed her lips gently against the base of Leo's neck and his eyes slowly flickered open to stare up at the clear ideal blue sky of the Ocean Dome. Gradually, he could feel her lips glide up the side of his neck and jaw. "Hey, Sleepyhead," she murmured with a sweet smile, her tongue drawing along his lips.

Leo grinned happily, planting a kiss upon her forehead. "Hey to you too," he whispered softly, slipping her arm around her bare back. He sighed in content as blonde wisps of her hair flew upwards, stroking his cheek.

The two laid quietly on the beach for a long time, until Karone finally blinked in confusion and looked down at herself. "What is going on here?!" she shrieked wildly, jumping off of Leo's body and onto the sand.

Startled by the Pink Ranger's scream, Leo also glanced at himself and Karone, a sudden light dawning upon him. He slowly sat up, reaching behind himself to sweep the sand off of his back. "We were playing Hide and Seek, I kissed you and we came here..." he trailed off, blushing a powerfully bright red. "Oh, no...I can't believe it."

Karone, who had instantly run to retrieve her clothes, stood a few feet away from him. "Well, believe it!" she retorted while struggling to squeeze herself back into her leather pants. "It MUST have happened...I mean, both of us were nude, TOGETHER."

Leo shook his head, still somewhat dazed at the entire thought of him and Karone being...intimate with one another. "Look, I don't know what actually compelled me to kiss you, but I'm sorry," Leo apologized in a flustered fashion, running his fingers through his hair over and over again. "I'm sorry about this entire...incident."

"I'm sorry too," she replied, now slipping her leather top back on and tying it. "It wasn't only you back there. I could have pulled away from the kiss, but I simply didn't. It was like I wasn't in control at all," the former villainess mused lightly, thinking back to the moment when Leo had kissed her.

"Same thing here," he piped up with a deep sigh. "I just wish I could go back and stop it all. Everything is going to be all awkward now..."

Now fully dressed, Karone locked her solemn gaze upon Leo as he sat there gazing off into the horizon, completely confused and screwed up. He was cute...in that boyish way, and she did like him. But she wasn't ready for any type of relationship or commitment. Coming off of her broken engagement with Zhane...she hadn't wanted to deal with the complexities of men and sex for awhile, but she ended up having to. What was worse was she KNEW that this had been Leo's first time...

"Leo, you had better get dressed before anybody comes out here and sees you," she finally spoke up softly, tossing Leo's red tank top in his direction. He slowly turned to look at her. "I'm going to get going, alright?"

Leo nodded mutely, returning his eyes to the ocean. Karone frowned to herself sadly, picking up her boots and running up the shore to the paved path that led out of the Ocean Dome. They had teleported to the dome earlier and Karone almost thought about teleporting out of there herself, but decided on walking instead.

She needed time to think.

*****

Leo could hear Karone run up to the path as her feet kicked up the sand and carried her away. Once he could no longer hear her, he grabbed his clothes and put them back on. Slowly, he began to wander down the ocean's shore.

He tried desperately to make sense of the jumbled emotions, thoughts and memories from the last four hours, but it was simply an impossible task for him. The easiest things were escaping the powerful Red Galaxy Ranger's mind...they weren't COMPLEX things, and yet Leo couldn't decipher them at all.

He knew he ached terribly. That was the only thing he probably knew at that very moment. Not his body, but his heart ached. Karone had seemed so cold to him when she had left him alone on the beach...the girl he had a crush on, the girl he had lost his virginity to, didn't give a damn about him.

"Maybe it's better off this way," Leo muttered to himself as the tide slowly nipped at his toes while he continued to walk along. "This whole thing was a mistake after all. If she knew that I liked her as more than a friend..."

His mind flashed back to Karone's initial reaction to the thought of them together. "She'd just be more angry," he told himself, watching the sun gradually begin to descend behind the horizon.

Leo gazed down at the sand and kicked some of it up with his foot. "I wish this would have never happened!" he cried out angrily, tossing his shoes a few feet away from him. In his moment of anger, he collapsed to the sand to lie down on his back once more. "Why does all this bad stuff happen to me?"

*****

"Maya?" Karone stumbled into the darkened quarters she shared with the Yellow Ranger. "Maya, are you here? I've REALLY got to talk to someone," she moaned, her feet terribly sore.

"Computer, lights," she ordered and the lights dawned upon the room allowing the blonde to navigate her way to the sofa and collapse onto it.

She kicked off her boots, which she had put on halfway through her walk when her feet started to blister, and leaned heavily into the cushions of the sofa. "I wish I knew where everyone was," she complained, scanning her eyes around the room. That's when her eyes caught upon a piece of paper hanging off the kitchen counter.

Hesitant to stand, Karone simply waved her hand and pulled the note towards her with the use of her telekinesis. The note fell gently into her lap and she picked it up, reading it out loud:

Dear Karone,

We were waiting for you and Leo to meet us at the Mountain Dome for some training exercises, but neither of you showed up. So we went on without you. We came back here to see if you guys were here, but no one was so I'm leaving this note. All of us are in my quarters.

Kai

"The guys quarters?" Karone groaned unhappily. That meant she'd have to stand up again! "Oh well. I'd rather be there than all alone in here," she muttered, standing up and pulling her boots back on. "I just hope Leo doesn't decide to show up...I really don't want to see him right now."

*****

Leo felt his heart beat faster and faster as Karone's lips roamed body. His hormones were raging and he was moaning like there was no tomorrow. "Karone..." he gasped as she nuzzled into his neck deeply.

"Yes?" she replied playfully, her voice touched with seductive overtones as she laid on top of him. "Did you want something?" she winked, dragging her fingers down his chest.

He nodded eagerly, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close. "I want you," he groaned heatedly, kissing her strongly and fervently.

Leo was abruptly knocked out of his remising when the elevator lift came to a stop on Deck Two and the doors swished open, allowing two GSA officers inside the lift.

He grunted, almost unpleasantly, when he was forced to stop drooling over his memory. He watched the woman cautiously as she announced, "Computer, Deck Three."

Ultimately, Leo gave himself a good mental slap that he hoped would last for the rest of the ride up to the quarters he shared with Kai and Damon. He knew he would need it desperately after his last flashback.

After recovering from his initial anger about his encounter - as he had chosen to call it - with Karone, he realized just how much he had enjoyed it. He sort of understood why men were called pigs when it came to sex finally. He thought the term kind of fit actually...and was partially ashamed to admit he was one.

He felt even worse about how his encounter with Karone had taken place. It hadn't happened because of this deep love they both shared, but it had happened because of a little sexual tension and an immense loss of self-control on both of their parts. It gave him this awful gut-wrenching feeling to know he had taken advantage of Karone. She probably felt worse because she was the older of the two of them, he reasoned earlier to himself.

Leo was jarred out of his thoughts once more when the elevator stopped at Deck Three and the two GSA officers exited, leaving him alone once again. When he didn't leave the lift, the doors closed and it resumed its course up to Deck Four.

He tried thinking about everything and anything BUT what had happened only a matter of hours ago between him and Karone. He thought of the last battle he had fought against Trakeena's Stingwingers...and how Karone had been there and how she looked absolutely gorgeous in their form-fitting suits...

"NO!" Leo shouted out loud, his voice echoing through the small room. "I have to stop thinking about her. Maybe I should go talk to Mike or something..."

The elevator stopped for the third time at Deck Four and this time Leo exited it and began walking down the corridor towards his quarters. He hoped desperately for Mike to be there. If anyone, he could talk to his brother about this...

"Karone!" he yelped out for the second time in the last five minutes. He couldn't help it though. There she was, getting ready to ring the doorchime to his quarters.

"Leo?!" Karone snapped her head to ogle at Leo, completely flustered. She quickly covered that expression up with a cold glare. "Why are you here?" she huffed, slightly annoyed.

He quickly made his way to the door and pushed the doorchime for her. "These are MY quarters," he scoffed gently, also covering for the awkwardness he was feeling. "What are you doing here?"

Before Karone had a chance to answer his question, the door slid open and Damon Henderson appeared before the couple. "It's about time you two got here!" he greeted exasperatedly, grabbing them and dragging them inside.

"Yeah, we thought you two got lost or something," Mike Corbett chuckled as leaned back against the sofa, Maya sitting beside him and nodding in agreement.

Both Leo and Karone grinned uneasily as they stood side by side. "So what did keep you guys?" Kai Chen asked incredulously as he stood in front of the stove in the kitchen, stirring something in a pot.

They were quiet for a moment, searching their minds for the perfect excuse. "Uhhh..." Karone stalled for time, racking her brain.

"Ummmm...we were helping Alpha fixing something and..." Leo began to weave the lie, hoping his companion would continue it.

A light went off in the blonde's brain just as she heard Leo trail off. "...and it took a lot longer than we expected. We were going to call you guys..."

"...but we figured you would understand," Leo picked up where she left off, finishing their horrid lie.

Funny enough, Kai shrugged and took the lie at face value, not at all suspecting. "Oh," he replied as Karone zipped off to sit next to Maya on the sofa and Leo sat beside Mike.

"So...did we miss out on anything this afternoon?" Karone asked hurriedly, trying to strike up a conversation to distract everyone's attention.

Damon sat down his bunk and stretched slowly. "Nothing much. Just same old routine," he answered with a slight yawn.

"Well, it was same old routine until you..." Karone slowly tuned out Kai as he started to chew out Damon again. She had gotten the exact distraction she had wanted.

She leaned over discreetly and whispered into Maya's ear, "I need to talk to you. Alone. In private."

Maya was considerably startled by Karone's request. "Why?" she whispered back.

"I had sex with Leo this afternoon."

"What?!" Maya hissed in utter unbelievable shock, at the thought of Leo and Karone intimately together and the fact that the Pink Ranger had been so blunt her in telling.

"I'll tell you when we get back to our quarters," Karone retorted sounding very much annoyed with herself.

*****

Leo studied the two girls as the walked out of their quarters, Karone feigning illness as the reason for leaving so soon. Of course, Leo knew better and he was actually quite thankful towards the blonde for finding a legitimate means of "escape". Now, he could talk to Mike without feeling all tingly and flustered with her around.

For a few moments, Leo sat beside his brother in utter silence, debating himself on how he was going to explain it all. Then, he slowly spoke up. "Mike?"

Mike quickly turned his attention to his little brother. "Yeah, Leo?"

"I need to talk to you about something," Leo declared, experiencing a small bout of embarrassment. "It's about this afternoon...why me and Karone were late."

The older Corbett brother sensed the embarrassment in Leo's voice and almost immediately knew what had taken place between the two. "Come with me," he tugged on his little brother's arm, pulling him off of the sofa and towards the door. Mike glanced at Kai and Damon, who were hovering over the pot of food that was still cooking. "We'll be right back," he told them in a neutral voice.

"Sure," Damon acknowledged as the two walked out into the corridor, the door sliding shut behind them.

The two walked down the corridor in silence until they came upon Mike's quarters. The senior GSA officer pushed the button below the doorchime, allowing the door to the room to slide open easily. He then entered and motioned for Leo to follow him inside.

"Computer, lights," Mike ordered with a soft and rather tired voice. Once lights illuminated their surroundings, Mike sat down upon a stool and stared at his little brother who was standing awkwardly before him. "Care to tell me the entire story, Leo?" he questioned with a tinge of disappointment in his voice.

Leo met his brother's gaze. "It's not what you think," were the first words that he blurted out.

"Try me," Mike remarked, leaning against the counter beside him.

"Alright," the Red Ranger sighed. This wasn't exactly how he planned to talk. The LAST thing he needed was to recount what had happened during his "encounter" with Karone. Every touch and feel...nope! He really did not need to go there at that moment. "Well, Karone and I were playing with some of the kids and the daycare center earlier today. We were playing Hide and Seek when the kids' parents arrived and they all left. Karone and I were still playing Hide and Seek...when things got a little out of hand..." he trailed off uneasily, glancing Mike's way.

"Who kissed who?"

"I kissed her and it kinda just dominoed from there," Leo admitted, without going into deep detail. "Neither of us had meant to though. It was an accident!"

A hush fell over the two and Mike took that quietness to consider his brother's words. Mike knew his little brother damn well and knew Leo wasn't the type to take advantage of a girl. Besides, the way Leo felt so awkward and sheepish about what had taken place...Mike was pretty sure Leo was telling the truth.

Not that he doubted his brother, but ever since Leo had told him he had a crush on Karone, he had felt very uncomfortable about it. Mike liked Karone too, but he felt sort of protective for his brother. She was a woman with a longing for her childhood, while on the other hand Leo was just simply still a kid at times.

"I take it you want my advice on how to deal with her?"

Leo wandered over to the window, gazing out at the mysterious and unfamiliar stars littering the background of space. "I was hoping for a little bit of advice," he mumbled, reaching with his fingers to touch at the glass somewhat longingly. "That, and I just needed to get it off of my chest." He turned around, his face filled with an unusual devastation. "After we "woke" up, Karone she was just...this totally different person. She was so cold and shut off...she wasn't the same person I knew."

Mike leisurely approached his brother's side, letting Leo muse for a little bit. "You've only known Karone for a month," he pointed out as set his hand on Leo's shoulder. "You don't exactly know her every reaction and mood. Besides, she was the QUEEN of Evil at one time in her life; she's bound to have a dark side. And what if she was just so shocked, she didn't know how to react so she shut herself off?"

"Maybe..." Leo took Mike's words to heart. "It felt like something else though."

Mike chuckled softly at his brother. "Leo, with women, EVERYTHING is something else..."

*****

"You're kidding me, right?"

Those were first words out of Maya's mouth as the door to her and Karone's quarters slid shut behind her. "You and Leo? Together?"

Karone moaned out, "Yes" and then quickly kicked off her boots, moving to lie down on the sofa.

Maya literally skipped over to where Karone was and sat down on the floor. "So this isn't a joke?" she queried one more time, simply making sure. The thought was simply mind-blowing!

"Part of me wishes it was," she replied, lying back and propping her feet up with a pillow on the other side of the sofa. "The other part of me savors what happened on that beach and wants more. Least to say, I'm suppressing that part."

"So what happened?" Maya prodded slightly, knowing Karone was eventually going to tell her anyways. She had managed to become semi-serious about the subject now that her mind had stopped running wildly.

Karone sighed, closing her eyes. "You know how me and Leo sometimes hang out at the daycare center, playing with the kids?"

"Yeah."

"Well, we were over there this afternoon playing Hide and Seek with the kids. Then their parents showed up and we kept on playing between the two of us; Leo was looking for me and found me. Then he kissed me, and I kissed him back. The kiss was pretty good, now that I think about it," she let a small smile play upon her lips at that memory. "Next thing I know, we're both nude on one of the abandoned beaches in the Ocean Dome."

Karone turned onto her side and propped her head up with her arm, looking over at Maya. "You know what was the strange thing about the experience, Maya?" she remarked lightly, while just recalling a little fact. "When we first kissed, I felt this blast emotions run through me and NONE of them were mine!"

It took a second for it dawn upon Maya, but when it did, she was gawking. "Oh my..." she muttered, placing a hand to her open mouth. She glanced at Karone, who was confused by her friend's reaction. "I am SO sorry!"

"What?!" Karone was now sitting up on the sofa, still in the dark.

"I meant to tell you and Leo this earlier, but it slipped my mind," she gasped. "The Lion and Wildcat Galactabeasts are in a relationship together."

Even with this new information, the Pink Ranger was still stumped. "And that means...?"

"The Galactabeasts have a kind of mental connection to their "masters", as they call us," Maya tried explaining, so she could get her point across. "They can reflect emotions onto us sometimes. Emotions like love."

Finally taking in all of the facts, Karone gasped and held her head in her hands. "So you mean, this whole thing with Leo probably happened because of our Galactabeats?" her voice shuddered in shock.

Maya nodded solemnly as Karone collapsed backwards onto the sofa.

*****

Karone tossed and turned as she tried to sleep that night, but her thoughts wouldn't relent and quietly go to sleep like she wanted them to. They ran rampant, stimulating every part of her brain and driving her to the point where she thought she was going to go insane.

One common thread that her thoughts had all contained was one person...

Leo.

Leo was always there. She recalled him fighting Stingwingers and helping her out of a tight spot. She remembered him smiling and laughing when he found her hiding in the tree. Sometimes, she even thought of his kisses and how smooth and hot they were.

Basically put, she had FAR too much of Leo on her mind.

"Probably an effect Wildcat is having on me," Karone muttered quietly to herself, turning onto her side on her bunk.

For awhile she remained silent, slowly watching the many Leo-oriented thoughts pop up into her mind. She was like that until she simply decided enough was enough. Karone crawled out of her bunk and headed towards her closet to grab some decent clothes.

Usually she'd wear her leather top and pants, but for once in a very long time, she didn't feel like wearing the material that felt like second skin to her. After all, she had worn for most of her life. So instead, she pulled out another familiar set of clothing and quickly slipped them on.

For a second, Karone turned to glance into the mirror next to the closet and sighed. "Oh, Zhane," she murmured, sliding her hands down her skirt colored in earth tones. "If you only knew about this lovely mess I've gotten into. You'd have a ball with it."

She smiled sadly at her reflection on the shiny object. It was pitiful to know that what had taken place between her and Leo was simply a reflection of love. Maybe, just maybe, when she had been ready for love again, Karone would have thought of Leo in that manner...on her own. Right now, there was no way to tell what was going on in her mind. Was Wildcat in control or was she?

After slipping on her sandals, she crept towards the door quietly trying her best not to possibly jerk Maya out of her peaceful sleep. That and Karone didn't want Maya thinking she was going to Leo or something.

Once she was out of her quarters and standing in the nearly empty corridor, she sighed contentedly. "Just me and the walls," she exuberated, striding down the corridor with a slight spring in her step. "Exactly what I was looking forward to."

Karone quickly wandered over to one of the elevators on the deck and stepped in, the doors whooshing shut after her. She was merely looking for the solitude she could find anywhere. At that moment, she found solitude inside the silent moving elevator.

"This is great," she moaned, closing her eyes and leaning against the railing behind her. "No thoughts about Leo, no thoughts about sex, no thoughts about anything. A blank mind."

Her happiness quickly flew out the door when it opened up to Deck Five and the one person she had thought she had escaped from entered. "Not again..." Leo moaned, stopping directly in the middle of the elevator's doorway.

"I think we have magnets in us," Karone groaned, equally disappointed. "You're south and I'm north."

"I think I'll agree with that," Leo nodded, entering the small room and standing beside her in the elevator as it began its decent.

The two stood quietly and stiffly in the elevator as it slowly rolled downwards back towards Deck Four. For them, the time it took for the elevator to even start moving downwards FROM Deck Five felt like an eternity. From then on, the sexual tension between the couple grew stronger and stronger until finally Karone simply couldn't take it anymore.

"Geez, this is totally insane..." Karone muttered as she grabbed Leo by the shoulders and pushed him up against the wall, kissing him as hard as she could possible with all her strength.

Leo let out a stunned cry that was muffled by their kiss and slowly faded away. He slid his arms around her and sunk to the cold floor, Karone in his lap. They kissed wildly and freely, hands and lips roaming each other's bodies wherever they pleased.

That is until the doors of the elevator swooshed open to reveal Deck Four's corridor to their view once again. They broke away from their intimate touches and stared out at the low-lit and empty deck. "To hell with it," Karone mumbled fiercely, literally overridden by the intoxicating feelings of love and lust. "I want you," she panted to Leo, their foreheads leaning against each other. "Right here, right now."

Leo breathed his response just as the doors shut, gently lying Karone to the floor and kissing her.

Sometime later, the common sense hit Leo to groan out, "Computer, seal elevator doors!"

*****

"I can't believe we did it again!"

"And this time you don't have yourself to blame for initiating it," Karone remarked unhappily, leaning against the wall as she pulled on her skirt. "Why is Wildcat having this much of an effect on me?!"

Tugging his red shirt up and over his head, Leo peeked out at the blonde in confusion. "What do you mean by Wildcat having an effect on you?" his voice was piqued with interest about his companion's words.

Karone smoothed out her skirt now that she was fully dressed and slowly replied him, suddenly shy about the situation they were tangled in. "Well, I kinda told Maya what happened between us yesterday..."

"Maya knows about the beach?!"

"Yes! Calm down, would you? It's not like she's going to spread the news all over Terra Venture or something!"

Leo sighed, slightly reluctant. He should have known that Karone would tell Maya. She was close to the Yellow Ranger and besides, if he had needed to talk to Mike about what happened, what Karone did should have been expected by him. "I guess you're right," he shrugged, feeling stupid in a way because of not considering Karone's needs to express her jumbled emotions. "I told Mike about what happened too."

He looked awkwardly towards her, the flush of embarrassment rising in his cheeks, yet to be surprised with the gentle smile that had graced Karone's face. "I figured you would tell him."

Unfortunately for Leo, he quickly watched the smile flop off of her face. Her light gleeful mood disappeared and the disappointed and frustrated mood returned to Karone. She ripped her gaze away from him and stared towards the cold floor. "I wish Wildcat would stop doing that," she groaned unpleasantly. She then glared up at Leo, not so much angry as she was upset: upset with him, upset with Wildcat, and upset with herself for falling prey once again to the GalactaZord's emotions.

"What are you talking about Karone?" Leo prodded once more. Why did she keep on mentioning her Galactabeast? "What does Wildcat have to do with anything?"

As the elevator continued on its rise up to Deck Four, Karone hesitated on telling Leo about the Galactabeasts' involvement. There was an uneasy pause as she debated over the subject. If she didn't tell him...well, the encounters that had gone on between them could continue. If she did tell him, he could just totally call her crazy and that would be the end of the conversation itself. She couldn't help but think that it sounded crazy too...the Galactabeasts making them have their primal urges of lust?

She was going to tell him anyway. It didn't really matter if he thought she was crazy...Karone already felt like she was going insane! Two different emotions fighting control over her mind and body; sometimes it was just simply too much for her. "Leo," she finally voiced, getting his attention. "Maya told me something last night about Wildcat and Lion."

"Does it have something to do with us?" he asked deliberately, trying not to be forceful in any way.

"Yes," she allowed the answer to escape her mouth gradually. "Lion and Wildcat apparently are in a relationship together. All of our Galactabeasts have a kind of telepathic connection to us and sometimes through this link they can reflect emotions that they are feeling. Even love."

Leo gaped for a moment, until he felt the elevator stop beneath his feet. Quickly, he announced, "Computer, unseal elevator doors."

The doors instantly unlocked themselves and slid open to show to the two a dim view of Deck Four, still empty. Leo took Karone's hand and pulled her out of the elevator, into the corridor. "Come on," he tugged her gently in the direction of her quarters. "I wanna go talk to Maya. We need her to find out if there's a way to stop this from happening from Lion and Wildcat. They've gotta have an answer."

Karone followed him down the corridors silently. She suddenly felt so awkward being with Leo and not feeling anger or love towards him. She felt like...herself again.

As the neared her quarters, Leo also felt the awkwardness that Karone was feeling. He simply suppressed the feeling, something that he always usually did. Leo would much rather look strong than show any weakness. That hadn't been the case since yesterday. He felt defenseless in a way around Karone. He probably knew him better than anyone else did...even Mike. That little piece of information nagged at him now; it bothered him.

Soon enough, the two of them stepped to stand in front of Karone's front door and she pressed the keypad, allowing the door to slide open. "Maya?" Karone called out in the darkness.

"Yeah?" Maya's voice quickly replied her roommate's. "Hold on a second. Computer, lights." The lights instantly flashed on at the brunette's command, shedding light onto the room and revealing Maya. She sat expectantly on the sofa, fully dressed, as if she was awaiting Karone's return.

Karone blinked in part confusion, part surprise. "I thought you were sleeping!"

Maya simply shrugged an answer. "I'm a light sleeper." She gave the couple a soft smile. "Besides, I kinda put two and two together and..." the Yellow Ranger trailed off knowingly, but not with one of those "I told you so" grins. She looked more solemn about the fact that her friends were in such emotional turmoil over the entire mess.

Leo winced slightly at Maya's comment and at the reality of his situation. They really needed to figure out how to stop this madness. Karone and him couldn't go around having sex when they pleased, wherever they pleased! "Maya," his voice was tender, calling for help, "we really need your help. You've got to talk to Lion and Wildcat. We need to know if there's a way to stop them from inadvertently reflecting their emotions upon us."

"Are you guys okay?" Maya's face took on more concern while her gaze flashed between Karone and Leo.

Karone nodded. "We're fine," she sighed, almost sounding as if she wished she wasn't fine. "We just did it in an elevator this time."

Maya hastily swallowed the urge to let out a giant gasp. She suddenly felt as if time was of the essence and that if her friends didn't get help soon there could be an...outcome, from it all. "Why don't I go talk to them right now?" she suggested, standing up from the sofa. "I mean, it's not like they should be sleeping...at least I don't think they are."

Leo, who had been standing next to Karone awkwardly with his hands clasped behind his back, immediately piped up, "Sounds like a plan. I'll go with you," he insisted anxiously, his wandering gaze falling upon Maya.

With a nod of her head, she acknowledged Leo's words and then glanced towards Karone. The Pink Ranger looked rather uneasy more than awkward. "Karone," Maya gently questioned her blonde friend. "Do you feel alright? Maybe you should stay here."

"Maybe that'd be a good idea," she spoke softly with a tired voice. Karone moved achingly towards the sofa and plopped down on it, peeking up at Maya and Leo. "You guys go ahead and find out what we can do about this. I'm just gonna take a nap."

"Alright, if you say so," Leo reluctantly agreed as he and Maya headed towards the front door once more. He wasn't exactly ecstatic about leaving Karone by herself, especially when she looked ill, but he truly had no choice this time.

For all Leo knew, if he stayed, he would probably loose ALL self control.

*****

Karone eagerly kicked off her sandals after her two friends left and padded her way over to her bunk, lying down. Slowly, she navigated her way to slip underneath her blankets and relaxed her head on her pillow.

Closing her eyes, she let her mind wander to important thoughts; thoughts that needed to be thought about. "What am I going to do about Leo?" she moaned out softly, her eyes still delicately closed.

Karone knew if Wildcat and Lion knew a way to kind of "block" their reflections of emotions upon Leo and herself, things would be awkward between them, to say the least. It was already awkward. It was just going to worse and forge a gap in her friendship with Leo.

The last thing she wanted to loose was her friendship with Leo, in spite of all the things that had taken place during the last twenty-four hours. But she was prepared to loose his friendship because she had had first-hand experience that when you have sex, there was no turning back.

Zhane had been her first-hand experience. Before she had decided to on her "crusade" of sorts, Karone had been engaged to Zhane. They were blissfully in love and never wanted to be apart. That was, until Karone felt the need to right all of her wrongs done as Astronema by doing good across the universe.

She had come absolutely close to convincing Zhane to come along with her, telling him it was something she needed to do with him by her side. In the end, Zhane resisted her offer to come along, surprising Karone. She had always thought he loved the fight of being a Power Ranger and traveling through space; what she had planned was nearly just that, but somewhat different.

Her fiancé rejected her offer straight out, claiming that the wild life was no longer for him. That he had experienced it already and that he wanted her to stay on Earth with him.

Karone knew she didn't want to stay on Earth. She had spent her life as Astronema roaming the universe; she wanted a chance to roam the universe as Karone. So, on one fateful night, Karone left with a small bag of her belongings and ended up on Aquitar.

She stayed on Aquitar for a few months before hearing the news about the Pink Quasar Saber being in the wrong hands on Onyx. Without a second thought, she dropped everything and caught the next transport that would pass by Onyx. "And here I am," she sighed softly to herself, opening her eyes and staring up at the bunk above hers. "Maybe if I had stayed on Earth with Zhane, this wouldn't have happened."

As she rolled over onto her side, Karone dismissed the thought quickly. If she had stayed on Earth, she would have never experienced the many wonderful things she had. The good definitely outweighed the bad in her situation.

Karone was silent for sometime, trying to calm her thoughts so that she could go to sleep. But that was hard because of the odd feeling that she felt within her; it was that feeling that was causing her to feel ill. She couldn't pinpoint the exact feeling or what was triggering it, but the magic in her blood was telling her something was going on inside her. Something new, something different.

The magic in her blood just wasn't sure WHAT it was.

*****

Part Two

As Leo drove the little car down the dark empty streets of the City Dome heading towards the Mountain Dome, he broke the silence that had fallen upon him and his passenger. "I hope Karone is feeling better," he commented nonchalantly, trying to strike up some kind of conversation.

Maya nodded her head gently in the darkness. "Your feelings for Karone go deeper that the Galatcabeasts' emotions, don't they?" she questioned softly, not trying to put Leo on the spot but simply trying to confirm one of her hunches. The car quickly rolled through the connector tunnel that linked the City Dome to the Mountain Dome.

Leo had a look of unbelievable surprise on his face, which he hastily tried to disguise from her view. It was already too late though because she had been paying close attention to Leo's expression and had been able to discern it even in the dimness. "It's alright," she ensured. Leo was able to hear the true sincerity in her voice. "I won't hold it against you. Does Karone know?"

"No, she doesn't." He glanced over in the Yellow Galaxy Ranger's direction for a moment, driving straight ahead. "I sort of don't want her to know though; especially with all of this stuff that had just happened recently."

"I understand," Maya reassured him in her comforting way. "You don't want Karone to think..."

"...that I have a one-track mind," he filled in as they entered the Mountain Dome, the unpaved dirt road rubbing against the vehicle's tires. A sudden thought entered Leo's mind at right about that moment, one he was quite surprised that hadn't occurred to him to ask even Karone before. "Maya?"

"Hmm?"

"Has Karone ever, well, talked to you about her former...boyfriends?" The uneasiness his voice could be clearly heard, but Leo wasn't quite worried about that anymore. He wanted to know about Karone's sexual past; he kind of felt in an odd way he DESERVED to know about it.

Quite stunned by her companion's question, Maya looked to Leo and realized he was actually pretty serious. She considered flat-out refusing to answer his question because of the privacy she shared with Karone. They had had a few chats at the beginning when Karone was trying to adjust to life on Terra Venture: the Pink Ranger explaining her tainted past to the only person on Terra Venture who had never experienced her wrath.

Maya also saw where Leo was coming from although, and knew he would eventually hear it from Karone when the time was right. It wasn't her place to stick her nose where it most certainly did not belong. "It would be better if Karone told you that, Leo," she paused as the car came to a stop along the side of the dirt road near a grove of trees. "She'll tell you when she deems it fit."

"Alright," Leo easily sided with her decision. He respected Maya's respect for Karone's privacy and he hoped one day, after their mess was taken care of, that he could be privileged to be able to have that respect for Karone.

He turned off the car and the two undid their seatbelts quickly, climbing out of the car and heading into the grove of trees before them. Soon enough, they came out of the gathering of trees to stand at the very periphery of a large grass field, which was where all the Galactabeasts resided.

"Wildcat?" Maya called out to the animal. "Lion? Wake up!"

Leo heard a few snorts and grunts resound from far away, while Maya heard words. He turned to see her shaking her head, almost disapprovingly. "I KNOW you're awake...Leo and Karone are awake too because of you two!" she replied the grunts.

A grunt that almost sounded like a surprised exclamation to Leo's ears sounded once again and Lion and Wildcat padded into the two rangers' view finally. Lion growled a few times and snorted towards Leo, leaving him confused. Leo instantly turned to Maya, who translated, "He says sorry."

"All that to say sorry!?" Leo muttered off to the side, before gazing up towards his Galactabeast and replying. "Can you possibly stop this from happening? Karone and I don't exactly...savor it as much as you and Wildcat may."

This time Wildcat was growling at Maya; Leo guessed that she was answering his question for her lover. "What'd she say?"

Maya laid her eyes upon his and he quickly noticed that they weren't exactly looking hopeful. "Wildcat says there is no way to block the telepathy bond. She said the last Galaxy Rangers never had this problem," the brunette sourly recounted. "I'm really sorry, Leo."

"It's alright," Leo declared in a rather monotonous tone. He let a small courteous smile grace his features, returning his gaze to the two Galactabeasts. "Thanks for your help anyway," he acknowledged.

Wildcat roared softly, replying Leo's pain with a comforting "word" of her own. "Come on, we'd better get going," he prompted Maya, dejectedly heading back into the grove of trees. "I might as well face Karone and tell her there's no way to stopping this madness. If I tell her now, maybe she might not feel the need to kill me with one of her reflected moods later."

Leo sighed pathetically to himself, obviously very disappointed by his fallen hopes. "Leo," Maya's voice called out to him and that's when he realized that she hadn't been following him back to the car. "Leo, can you come back here please?"

Leo sighed heavily, his shoulders slouching. "Maya, I'm really tired and I just want to go home and get some sleep. Do you-"

"Leo..." a familiar voice whispered gently, a ghost-like feel to it.

The young man instantly spun around at the sound of the voice and gawked. "I can't believe it," he breathed, creeping closer to Maya. "It can't be..."

There, bridging the gap between him and Maya, was Kendrix Morgan.

*****

Trakeena rose from her bed without a second thought and glided across her chambers to activate her viewscreen which monitored all ranger activity on Terra Venture. She had this...feeling that something was brewing down on the human colony.

"What are you doing, Trakeena?" a voice called to her as she sat before the viewscreen.

"Checking up on the rangers, that's all," she dismissed, pressing her fingers along the console.

Soon enough, the blank viewscreen lit up with a picture of the Mountain Dome, near where Leo and Maya were presently. She quickly took notice of their silhouettes in the dark picture and zoomed in on them. That was when she finally saw the ghostly figure floating between them. She balled her hand into a fist and slammed it on the console fiercely. "Damn that girl! Damn her!"

Her companion jumped up from where he lay on Trakeena's bed, startled. "Who is it, Trakeena?"

The young villainess swiveled around, her face coated his anger. "That Pink Ranger - the one who died - she is speaking with the Red and Yellow Rangers!" she cried out in resentment. "Helping them, most likely. Something I do not need her doing!"

"May I suggest sending down a group of Stingwingers?" he suggested, trying to calm down the might rage of his queen.

A smirk befell Trakeena's lips and her anger melted away, revealing a conniving woman. "That would be an excellent suggestion, Villamax. A very good one indeed..."

*****

"It is me," Kendrix grinned, as she floated before him. "Not exactly in the flesh, but it's me; Kendrix!"

Leo crept even closer, finally believing what was being shown to him. "Kendrix!" he cried, stumbling around for words until, "Whoa!" finally came out.

The three of them all laughed together at Leo's clumsy excitement. "It's wonderful to see you again, Kendrix," Maya whispered happily once their laughter died away. She struggled to hold back the slow-forming tears in her eyes.

Kendrix smiled widely at her close friend. "It's wonderful to be seen again," she replied humorously, "but as much as I may wish I was here for a social call, I'm not. I'm here to help you guys out."

"Help us?" Leo repeated, not quite comprehending until he actually thought for a second. "Oh, you mean about the situation between me and Karone..."

Kendrix nodded, almost in mild regret. A little part within her good soul yearned and wished she had been in Karone's place at that moment. For Kendrix cared ever so deeply for Leo, but had never gotten the chance to speak her feelings to him. However, now that she was no longer restrained to a corporal body, Kendrix could go back and forth through time and she knew that Fate had never meant for Leo to be hers. He was destined to live a long and loving life with another woman.

That didn't matter at that moment though. Right now, she was there to help her friends and help them she was. "Yeah, there is a way you can control yourself against the emotions from telepathy bond," she began to explain to Leo slowly, but before she could continue, a group of Stingwingers descended upon the vicinity.

"Stingwingers!" Maya cried out in sheer surprise.

Kendrix quickly floated farther away from her two friends and towards the trees, as she watched them prepare to morph. "Quick!" Leo shouted, and near moments later Maya's voice joined him.

"Go Galactic!"

Within flashes of bright red and yellow lights, Maya and Leo morphed into their Power Ranger uniforms and started kicking Stingwingers left and right. Even as they fought hard, Kendrix noticed more of Trakeena's henchmen flying towards the battle scene and realized that the Yellow and Red Rangers' were going to be overwhelmed soon if they didn't get help.

So, Kendrix did the ONLY thing she could do: Get help.

*****

It had only been about a half-hour after Karone had finally drifted off into the magical and wondrous place of dreamland, when a resounding voice echoed through her head.

"Karone!" the voice, feminine, yelled hollowly. "Wake up, Karone!"

The Pink Ranger murmured incoherently in her sleep and tossed herself onto her side, trying to block the voice out of her mind and get some more rest. As hard as Karone tried though, the voice continued to plead. "Karone!" it cried frantically. "You've got to wake up and help Leo and Maya!"

"What?" the blonde nearly popped up in her bunk, almost hitting her head on the bunk above hers. Karone didn't even question the voice, for she could sense the faint vibe of trouble in the air now that she was fully aware.

She jumped out from underneath her blankets and quickly activated her communicator/morpher, which was still strapped to her wrist. "Kai! Mike! Damon!" she alerted her fellow teammates through the speaker. "Leo and Maya are in trouble!"

*****

Leo quickly jabbed a Stingwinger in the midsection with elbow, releasing himself from the bug's clawed grip. He ran over to Maya's side to help her get rid of the many henchmen that had descended upon her.

"There are too many!" she shouted over the buzzing noises the Stingwingers were producing. "We need help!"

"Well then, help has arrived!" Damon's voice boomed from behind them.

Leo and Maya snapped their heads around to look behind them to see Damon, Kai, Mike and Karone fighting off the many Stingwingers that had retreated from them and started attacking the four new arrivals.

Unfortunately for the Stingwingers, they quickly and easily became overpowered by the strength of the six rangers together and flew off into the darkness of the night. "What was that all about?" Mike muttered with a tired yawn as he lowered his sword.

"I have no idea," Leo replied in truthful amazement. "How did you guys know we were in trouble? We couldn't even get to our communicators before they attacked us!"

"Karone called us and told us you two were in trouble," Kai replied clearly, motioning towards Leo and Maya.

The Red Ranger's gaze shifted to fall upon Karone, who in turn, looked directly at Maya. "I sensed something in the air," she shrugged absently, as if it was no big deal. "I guess having magic has its advantages."

For a moment, the group was simply quiet and in the darkness of their surroundings crickets and other nocturnal animals could be heard as they went about their own business. "What were you two doing out here anyways?" Damon finally yawned, speaking up for himself, Kai and Mike who were nearly oblivious to what was going on.

Before Maya could even speak up to spit out the truth, Leo responded to the question in record time. "Maya thought she heard something funny with the Galactabeasts. I was up when she called, so I decided to come with her to check things out."

Fortunately for Maya, none of them could see her face filled with guilt of lying beneath her helmet. "When we came out here I realized it was nothing," she quickly backed up Leo's alibi.

Kai and Damon once again excepted Leo's lie at face value while Mike knew something was going on with his little brother. He wasn't about to pry at Leo just then though. Mike knew he was going through a lot of stuff at that time. "Come on," the Magna Defender urged his friends, "it's almost sunrise and we've all got things to do."

Everyone sort of quietly agreed with Mike as they began walking through the grove of trees once more...everyone but Leo. He hung back uncomfortably, looking around the small clearing, hoping to find any indication that Kendrix's spirit was still there. He badly needed to know, wanted to know, what could stop his meaningless drive of emotions that caused him to feel for Karone the way he did.

Karone could sense Leo's desperation. It was the same kind of desperation that she herself felt, but refused to let out. Magic was kind to a person in these ways, letting them conceal certain emotions to an extent. But simply knowing Leo was just as desperate as she was, she couldn't help but see him as a kindred spirit...as a friend wading through the same exact muck that she was, but having a harder time of it.

The Pink Ranger after walking about halfway through the cluster of trees, hearing her own footsteps swish through the fresh grass, turned around completely and started heading back towards where Leo was back out on the empty field. "Karone!" Maya whispered quietly as the blonde lingered away, trying to stop her friend from making another mistake. She grabbed for Karone's arm, but Maya's fingers narrowly missed her.

Another arm closed on Maya's shoulder and she spun around to find herself staring into the Magna Defender's helmet. "Let her go, Maya," Mike advised gently as they continued to walk forward. "Leo and Karone need time to talk alone."

The Yellow Galaxy Ranger gawked for a second, realizing Mike knew almost everything she did. "But what if they..."

He shook his head and hushed her. "They NEED this time. We just have to have a little trust in them."

*****

"Kendrix?" Leo hissed softly, roaming around the small area. "Are you still here?"

He silenced himself for some time, listening for a response. "Leo?"

He literally jumped, half expecting to see Kendrix, but instead saw Karone standing before him with her helmet held securely beneath her arm. She appeared almost like a lost little child, wandering absently, looking endlessly for her parents. "You're looking for Kendrix?" she spoke with a delicate tone sounding as if she spoke louder Terra Venture would crumble to pieces.

"How did you know?"

"She called to me in my sleep," she confessed the truth to him. "Kendrix told me you and Maya were in trouble."

"That was kind of her," he shrugged, letting Karone's words roll off of him. He hadn't wanted to deal with Karone, and yet there she was. Did Fate have it out for him?

Karone stood silently, watching Leo as he searched high and low for the former Pink Ranger's spirit. "Did you want any help?"

"No thanks," Leo commonly brushed her off again, hoping she would take a hint and leave him, but Karone was playing dense. She wasn't about to leave especially when she knew she could help somehow. She didn't care what Leo thought; she wanted to be there with him.

"Leo!" a voice scolded the Red Ranger. "Since when did you ignore people? Maybe I should ignore you!"

Both Leo and Karone snapped around to see Kendrix floating delicately before them. "Kendrix! I've been looking for you-" Leo was instantaneously cut off by the beautiful and young spirit.

"The first thing to blocking the telepathy bond is restoring your friendship with Karone. Now, that's not going to exactly work out if you keep on ignoring her," Kendrix berated in a gentle manner. Leo gaped beneath his helmet, almost mortified.

Karone grinned faintly, touching his shoulder with her hand assuring him that she hadn't been offended by his actions. "So, there is a way to fix this?" she asked the former Pink Ranger confidently. "We can stop this from happening again?"

"There is a remedy," Kendrix answered, a small grin tugging at her light lips. "Before it can work though, you've both got to fix everything; the rift that's forged between you and ruined your friendship. You have to be able to trust one another again."

Leo unlatched his helmet, and gazed up at his friend with his brown eyes filled with bleakness. "How can we trust each other if we both know that at any moment either one of us could loose control?" He spoke truthfully, though knowing that he could no longer trust his OWN instincts tore him apart.

Kendrix bowed her slightly, a grim straight line now upon her mouth. "That's all part of trust, Leo," she replied, her voice echoing as she slowly faded into the darkness. "You must find it in your heart to trust each other again for everything to be set right..."

The couple silently watched as their friend gradually faded away, her words left for them to ponder upon.

For the longest time, the two of them stood there in the silence of the trees until Leo glanced at Karone's hand set upon his shoulder, and then met her gaze. He could see how Karone's beautiful eyes pleaded with him, begging for him to try and learn to trust her once more.

Solemnly, Leo nudged her hand from his shoulder and walked off into the morning dawn alone.

*****

"This is interesting," Trakeena grinned wickedly, her nails tapping upon the console before her as she lounged back in the chair she had a seat in over twenty minutes before.

"What is interesting?" Villamax queried curiously, finally vacating the bed he had been laying in and coming up beside Trakeena.

"It seems as if Karone and the Red Ranger are having "trust" issues," she commented flippantly, ideas churning within her mind. "I think I may know a way to deal with this."

"How?"

Trakeena smirked, resting her hand beneath her chin. "Let it play out, of course," she relayed to Villamax quite easily, his hand sliding to rest upon her shoulder. "You, of all people, should know that the weakness AND strength of any team of Power Rangers is trust. It is what binds them when strong and what exposes them when weak."

*****

"Karone's here! Karone's here! Karone's here!"

Karone couldn't help but let a gigantic grin light up her dreary face as she walked up the paved path that lead towards the daycare center, the little children sitting at the window anxiously waiting her arrival so they could have someone to play with.

Back in her normal leather clothes, the blonde opened the door to the center and was literally sucked inside by all the children's hands. "Whoa!" she cried out, shutting the door behind her. She quickly glanced across the room to see the other two teachers that worked at the daycare and waved to them.

For awhile, the kids were content with simply tugging at Karone's arms until one little boy shouted out, "Where's Leo?"

Soon enough, ALL the children started chanting, "Where's Leo? Where's Leo? Where's Leo?"

Karone quickly bit on her lip, forcing herself to not get all emotional over what had happened between Leo and her mere hours ago. She kneeled down to the children's height and motioned with her hands to them to calm down, which they immediately did. "Leo's not coming here anymore," she gently relayed to them.

Instantly, all the children looked somewhat sad. "Why?" another little girl piped up.

She was slightly taken aback by the question herself. Karone hadn't expected them to actually need an actual justification of why Leo wasn't coming around anymore. She knew WHY he wasn't coming around anymore, but it's not like she could tell the children what he had told her...

*****

"Leo?" Karone looked quite surprised at his presence at her door. "What are you doing here? Do you want to come in?"

He leaned casually against the doorframe, dressed in his normal uniform of blue jeans and his leather jacket. Karone wanted so badly to reach out and touch him, hug him and for him to say that everything was okay; that they were still the closest of friends. But the next words that came out of his mouth somehow told her that wasn't simply to be.

"No," he replied with a somewhat detached voice. "I'm not going to be working at the daycare center anymore, Karone."

Karone instantly looked stunned. "Don't tell me this is because of what...happened yesterday," she groaned slightly. "Leo, please don't distance yourself away from me. If anything we've got to work this out and Kendrix said..."

"Never mind what Kendrix said."

"But Leo, the kids love you!"

For a moment, Karone watched as an unsure look overrode his cold, stony disposition for a split second and then disappeared. The look in his eyes told her that he didn't want to leave the kids, that he loved the children at the daycare center too. But she knew his mind told him that being with her was a no-no and simply could not happen. His mind overruled his emotions in this case. "They'll just have to love you now, Karone," he simply shrugged with a monotonous voice and walked away from the door, down the corridor.

*****

"...Leo had to go do some other stuff for awhile," Karone blandly told the children. After all the time she had spent as Astronema, she still was horrible at coming up with lies. Luckily, they didn't even notice. "He may come back later on though."

"YaY!" the chorus of high-pitched voices cried as the went scampering all around the room once more to where they were playing. A few children stayed behind and tugged on Karone's hand.

"What's up?" She pushed Leo to the back of her mind quickly, turning her attention to the boys and girls. They were here now, Leo wasn't.

"Can we go play "Hide And Seek" in the park?" Molly chirped giddily. "Leo cheated yesterday!"

Karone couldn't help but grimace at the innocent suggestion from the child. Last thing she wanted to do was revisit the park, but Molly and the other kids wanted to and she wasn't about to deprive them of their fun just because she was uncomfortable. "He sure did cheat," she muttered lowly underneath her breath and then spoke up happily, "Sure! Let's go out there right now!"

*****

Leo inhaled the fresh breeze as it passed by him as he sat atop a beautiful black horse, letting it trot around the dirt track. He sighed quietly, not exactly content but not exactly unhappy. "This is much better than being around Karone constantly," he muttered, just loud enough that the horse could faintly hear him.

After Leo had left Karone, the first place he headed to was Terra Venture Stables. Maya worked there part-time as well as at Terra Venture Gardens, and after his connecting with the one of the horses there who helped him nearly defeat one of Scorpius' lackey monsters, Leo realized he rather liked the stables. Of course, he had never followed up on the chance to work there until that morning when he came to the final conclusion he could NOT work alongside Karone anymore.

He talked with the owner of the stables, and lucky for Leo, the owner took quick to his anxious attitude and gave him a job on the spot following a little bit of paperwork. Leo would basically be working an early shift from the morning to the mid-afternoon, taking care of some of the horse's needs. Not too much of a job, but one that Leo jumped at eagerly.

"Karone doesn't like animals," he mumbled once again, stroking the soft, combed mane of the horse. Karone had told him that once and said it was because of the way she was raised as a child. She never really saw animals before she was freed from the evil that possessed her. Somehow, the thought of knowing that Karone would never come around to the stables reassured the Red Ranger.

Leo wasn't angry with Karone, not in the least, but he was almost positive that she thought he was after the way he confronted her at her quarters.

Leo was simply hurt and confused.

Kendrix had told him to try and trust Karone again, but the words never even registered in Leo's mind. What was trust? Had Karone and him HAD trust before their encounter? Could he trust? Did he even know HOW to trust someone? Those were the questions that continued to haunt his thoughts.

As far as Leo could remember, he had been a very friendly and open child when he was younger. Mike even told him stories about when he was little and used to run up to strangers in the street and right there would start conversations with them. He would have trusted Trakeena if he had known her back then.

Something hardened him though. Leo was never really sure what had caused him to become that way, but when he got older he just was like that. He learned to be wary of certain people, bad people supposedly. But nothing hardened him more than what had happened to him only a few months ago.

Leo trembled visibly for a few moments as he recalled the experience that had caused him to be so wary and skeptical. Of course, it didn't show when he was around his friends...of all people he didn't want them to know about what had taken place. They would hover around him like someone who had been through something horribly life-changing.

The experience was life-changing, but simply not THAT much. Or at least he believed that.

*****

The days flew by swiftly, much to the surprise of both Karone and Leo. For an entire two weeks they had managed to avoid each other completely. Two weeks without the sight of one another didn't do much for their thoughts, which were continuously occupied with the thoughts about each other.

Karone became more solemn and Leo became more shut-off. The more the two denied what had happened between them, choosing to not make amends, the more they weighed upon each others mind...and the more the telepathy bond had influence over them.

It could all be so simple
But you'd rather make it hard
Loving you is like a battle
And we both end up with scars
Tell me, who I have to be
To get some reciprocity
No one loves you more than me
And no one ever will

Of course, Karone wasn't avoiding Leo by her choice. If she had it her way, she and Leo wouldn't be avoiding each other. They would be talking, trying get past what had happened in their encounter and salvaging their relationship. But then, at that time she had NOTHING going her way.

Ever since that night she had felt something new and vibrant within her, she had felt sick to her stomach. The loving and warm feeling and turned into somewhat of a wretched feeling as Karone continually felt as if she was going to vomit, but never really did. She simply dismissed it as a side-affect of the telepathy bond: nothing too bad to worry about. Karone had enough to bog her down already with Leo.

Leo, on the other hand, had become cold and silent. The isolation from Karone had literally caused him to shut himself off from everyone. He had to become hard and rough to block out the pain, hurt and loss or it would simply penetrate him and kill him softly.

Is this just a silly game
That forces you to act this way?
Forces you to scream my name
Then pretend that you can't stay
Tell me, who I have to be
To get some reciprocity
No one loves you more than me
And no one ever will

*****

Kai stirred at his newest culinary delight brewing inside of a large pot sitting upon the stove as the front door slid open and let Damon inside. "What for dinner this time?" he queried, laying his tool belt aside and moving over to the sink.

"Something new I found while searching through some databases late last night," Kai commented, setting the wooden spoon on top of the pot and sitting down on a stool. "Speaking of last night, have you seen Leo around today?"

Damon flipped on the kitchen faucet, water pouring down upon his hands as he washed them thoroughly of the grease and grime that he had been working with. "No, actually," he answered his friend, to his own surprise. "Usually I see Leo everyday, but lately...I haven't seen much, if any of him!"

"Neither have I," the GSA officer agreed and was about to go when suddenly the subject of their conversation stormed into their quarters with Mike hot on his trail.

The two young men fell silent staring at Leo as he stomped halfway through the room and then turned around, sneering at Mike in irritation. "Why can't you just back off, Mike?!" he yelled crossly. "It's none of your business!"

"It is my business, Leo!" Mike snapped back insistently, grabbing the younger Corbett by the shoulders and giving him a good jerk. "You're my little brother! This thing is tearing you up, but you aren't doing anything to solve the problem; you're only making it worse!"

The Red Ranger gritted his teeth, trying the best to keep his anger to a minimum and not make a scene, while also trying to not hit his brother at the same time. "Well then, if I CHOOSE to do what I am doing then that's my choice, now isn't it!" he yapped back, pulling away from Mike and literally running out of the quarters once again.

Kai and Damon watched dumbfounded as the front door slid shut behind Leo's escape. "Mike?" Damon gawked at the Magna Defender, trying to warrant some kind of answer from him.

Mike sighed heavily and plopped down onto the sofa before he answered the question. "I can't explain what just happened without telling you guys everything, and I think it's about time you guys heard everything so...here I go."

For the next fifteen minutes or so, Mike went about in detail describing what circumstances had unfolded between Leo and Karone in the last two weeks, starting with their encounter and ending with the argument that Mike had had with Leo. It had been about the same thing they had continuously argued over for the last few days: him choosing to not deal with Karone.

"That doesn't sound like Leo at all," Kai mumbled as he slowly absorbed all the information that had thrown in his direction. "I mean, he'll usually take the blame maybe, but got off his handle like that?"

Mike nodded in agreement. "It ISN'T Leo, and his whole new attitude towards Karone didn't just evolve from what happened between them. I have a feeling it goes past that, maybe to something else that happened to him. I'm sure nothing bad happened to him when we were on Earth, so must of happened while he was on Terra Venture."

All three men mused for awhile, until slowly Damon slipped, "Well, we never DID find out what Trakeena did to Leo for those three days he was captured..."

Kai literally jumped up from the chair he had sat in during Mike's retelling of events. "That kinda explains what was going on with Leo last night," he piped up, his features taking on a worried expression for his friend.

"What DID happen to him last night?" Damon queried, glancing at the Blue Ranger. "You were about to tell me before Mike and Leo ran in."

"Right," Kai acknowledged Damon's words. "Well, I was up late last night sorting through Terra Venture's database as well the Astro MegaShip's when I heard Leo mumbling his sleep.

"At first I kinda dismissed it, since lots of people talked in their sleep sometimes...even Leo. But a few minutes later, I actually heard Leo sobbing in his sleep," the Blue Ranger paused, watching their skeptical reactions. "I didn't believe it either until I walked by Leo and saw him. Tears were pouring out of his eyes and he kept on mumbling the words, "No, Trakeena, no!" over and over again. After awhile he calmed down and fell back into his sleep.

"I didn't want to mention it to him this morning because I was sure he'd think I was sticking my nose into his business, but now that you've mentioned it Mike, I'm worried about him," Kai finished his explanation, tugging at his sleeves awkwardly.

Mike looked thoughtful for a moment, staring beyond where Kai and Damon sat in front of him and at the wall. The emotions splayed across his face were hard to discern, but it was fairly clear that one of them was sadness. "I'm glad you told me," he allowed softly, as if distracted by other larger thoughts; which he was. Mike quickly stood up from his chair and headed out of the quarters. "I'd better get going, I've got a meeting with Commander Stanton soon."

The older Corbett brother vacated the room quickly, the doors shutting behind him. "It is me or does Mike look worried about Leo?" Damon chimed softly, his face full of concern for his friend.

Kai glanced the mechanic's way. "It's not just Mike, it's all of us..."

*****

Karone came stumbling out of the bathroom late the next morning; face pale and clutching her stomach painfully. She sorely managed to walk over to the sofa and fall onto the piece of furniture, moaning sickly. "I don't think I should have eaten those eggs..."

"Did I cook them wrong?" Maya queried, sounding absolutely guilty for Karone's sickness.

"No, you didn't," the blonde weakly smiled, assuring her friend. "You've cooked them before and I haven't gotten sick like this. I don't know, maybe I ate something wrong yesterday."

Maya's faced lightened slightly with some hope. "Well, I hate to leave you like this, but I'd better get going," she told Karone. "Do you need anything before I leave or anything? I can stay if you want."

Karone faintly smiled at her friend's generosity and kindness. "I think I'll be able to manage. What did I do to deserve a friend like you, Maya?"

Maya blushed gently as she headed towards the door. "Don't worry about it, Karone. You're such a good friend; I'm simply returning the favor."

The blonde woman nodded her head, waving as Maya exited their quarters and headed off to her job.

After a few minutes of relaxing on the sofa in complete silence, the urge to vomit came over Karone once more and she rushed to the bathroom, regurgitating what was left of her dinner from last night. "Aughhhh..." she moaned for a second time, moving over to the bathroom sink and splashing her face with fresh cold water.

She grabbed a nearby towel and patted her face dry, looking directly into the mirror that was above the sink. Karone stared at herself and sighed heavily. She looked awful...actually she looked far worse than awful. Her flat blonde hair limply framed her wan face as her tired eyes expressed the deep hurt that she carried within her. "There's no possible way I'm going to work looking like this," she laughed pathetically at her reflection in the mirror.

Karone turned to stumble out of the bathroom once more, moving towards her bed to lay down, but instead found herself walking into the living room and picking up a picture of her and Leo that had been standing on the coffee table. It had been taken a few days after her becoming the Pink Galaxy Ranger; the first day she started work at the daycare center.

Her weak fingers ran across the smooth surface, almost as if caressing the picture. Then, with all of the strength she possessed within her, Karone hurled the picture frame to the other side of the room, allowing it to land to land on the carpeted floor with a soft thump.

Suddenly, she collapsed to the ground, all of her energy sapped from her. She didn't WANT to hold it in anymore. She was sick of being strong for her own good and trying to play by Leo's rules. Karone wanted him to come to her and realize what an idiot he had been for the last two weeks. She wanted him to beg her for forgiveness and tell her that they could still be the best of friends. Those were her rules.

She just wished badly Leo could follow them.

*****

"Mike! Wait!"

The young GSA officer stopped striding down the corridor and spun around to see Maya jogging up to where he stood. Soon enough, she was standing at his side and they began walking together. "How is Leo?"

Mike couldn't help but heave a heavy sigh at the mention of the Red Galaxy Ranger's name. The two of them came to a stop in front of the elevator and stood waiting. "He's no better than he was yesterday morning," Mike grumbled, slightly irritated with the younger Corbett. "I just wish he'd stop being so...stubborn about it! I mean, if he has a problem, why doesn't he just let us know; we can help him get through it!"

"Well..." Maya trailed off abruptly as the elevator doors slid open and a few people exited it, allowing them to enter. Once they both were inside by themselves and the elevator had started to move upwards, she began to speak again. "Well, I haven't known Leo for a long time, but for the time I HAVE known him, he always had some sort of valid reason for his actions. He must have a reason behind not telling us about his problem."

Mike nodded his agreement, but his face still remained sour. "I know that, but this is tearing Karone apart! His actions...he hasn't yet seen the full result of them and Karone has made sure he won't," he paused, leaning against the small room's wall.

"Karone respects Leo's choice, no matter how much it hurts her."

"She's going to keep on getting hurt if she doesn't fight back against Leo!"

Maya stared intently at her companion, somewhat appalled by his recommendation. "Computer, stop elevator," she ordered and the machine came to a halt. "You don't understand, do you Mike?"

"Of course I understand!" Mike's eyes blazed with a fierce anger. His anger was not directed at Maya though. Mike was simply angry and frustrated with the situation his brother and Karone had gotten into. He cared for them both deeply, and watching them endure the pain over their choices made him hurt just as much. He wanted to do something, ANYTHING, to help, but they weren't letting him and THAT was the source of his anger. "Leo's acting like a gigantic idiot and Karone's taking the repercussions without a fight. They've got to do something...and if they won't do it on their own, I'll help them. Heck, I'll FORCE them to make amends and fix this!"

The brunette shook her head vigorously, her long curls sweeping into her face. "No, you DON'T understand," she spoke with a petite and hushed tone, which instantly calmed Mike down to a degree. "Karone has spent half her life as a servant to evil. She fought long and hard against good, never succeeding in her many attempts. Only when she finally STOPPED fighting, did she really win.

"Karone has CHOSEN not to fight Leo because she knows she can only win that way," Maya explained softly, still staring Mike down, but with a soft gaze now.

Mike absorbed her words, before countering them with his own thoughts on the subject. "If you don't fight, that always doesn't get you anywhere either. You can't just expect the things that you want to always come to you!

"It's just like when we fight Trakeena. We fight, because we know it will help us stay free for another day. And usually we DO succeed! You can fight and still win...Karone must at least know that!"

Maya was quiet and a dead silence fell over the two. "Computer, resume elevator," she at last voiced naturally. The elevator began to move upwards once more to Deck Five and she looked at him. "Fighting works, but Karone has her own way. I don't exactly see eye to eye with her decision either, but I DO respect it and understand that she needs to do things her way," Maya searched for some sort of acceptance from Mike in his eyes. "Can you respect it too?"

The elevator suddenly stopped and the doors slid open to reveal the brightly lit corridor of Deck Five. Mike nodded gently. "I can respect it," he replied Maya in assurance. "It hurts seeing two of my friends so torn up though. I feel like I need to help."

"So do I, but they've got to sort it out on their own terms or it just doesn't work," Maya sighed in agreement, folding her arms across her stomach somewhat sadly.

She watched as a solemn Mike exited the elevator and the doors slid closed after him, the elevator lowering her down once more. Realizing she was alone, the Yellow Galaxy Ranger propped herself up against the cold wall and let soft, small frown coat her lips. She frowned because she knew one thing was for certain.

Leo and Karone were in for a long bumpy ride.

*****

Part Three

Leo stared up at the clear blue skies, the sound of the willful waves crashing against the shores of the Ocean Dome filling his ears. He shivered slightly at the beautiful noise...the noise that reminded him of the woman he longed to hold.

He had just seen her that night too. When Kai had called an emergency meeting in their quarters. Everyone had been there, but Mike who had been working on trying to get full power up and running again on Terra Venture after the episode with the Galaxy Book blowing out some of the transformers.

They had been sitting around the coffee table by candlelight and he was able to stare intently at her without her really noticing. It was all Leo could ask for. The soft light highlighted her pale and gaunt face, which may have looked awful to anyone else, but to Leo it looked absolutely beautiful. Of course, it pained him to see her in that manner, but he had no choice.

Kai had then began blabbing about how a man who had tried to steal the Galaxy Book claimed to be the book's guardian and needed it; Kai wanted to help him. The other four rangers had instantly protested, but then relented when Kai told them that he believed it was his destiny.

"Maybe I shouldn't have let him go on with what he was planning," Leo mumbled to himself absently, slipping into leader mode for a moment. He quickly shook of the thought though, placing him back into his blue mood.

His thoughts shifted and he remembered what Mike had told him the last time they had talked, which had been over three days ago. Well, Leo wouldn't have exactly called it talking. "More like screaming at each other," he snorted out loud to his surroundings, lying in the sand on his back.

Mike's words, even as much as Leo hated to admit it, had hit home...and hit home hard. He was making the problem worse, but he couldn't help it. He loved Karone ever so deeply, but he couldn't be with her.

And it wasn't because he couldn't trust her that he couldn't be with her. No, that certainly wasn't it. "I trust her more than any other person I know," he breathed softly, slowly shutting his eyes to dwell in his morose mood. "I just can't trust myself anymore and I can't open up to anyone. I can't let her know about what happened between me and Trakeena..."

*****

Leo slowly rose from the pit of unconsciousness he had been thrown into. His vision was distorted as he quickly blinked his eyes, trying to make sense of his surroundings and his last conscious memories.

He remembered being held back by at least six Stingwingers, if not more...and Trakeena. Yes, Trakeena had been there and so had Villamax. Villamax had knocked him out and before he lost consciousness Trakeena had said something...something that didn't quite make sense to Leo. "'Savoring the capture before its time is done...'?" Leo mumbled, as his blurry vision finally cleared up allowing him to see clearly.

"Oh, yes," a sensual voice crept up upon him.

Leo's head darted left and right on the canopy bed he now realized he was laying on. The room itself, as he looked at it, was cold and dark. The only light that lit the room was a single flaming torch in one of the corners of the room. Off to one of the sides of the bed was a large console, which was where he saw a woman standing.

But as this woman moved closer towards the bed and more into his view, he instantly identified her as Trakeena, wearing nothing but a thin and slinky green gown. As much as Leo tried to close his mind and eyes to the image, he couldn't. "You're...beautiful," he stuttered out to his own disbelief, as she settled down on the bed beside his still form. Leo was even more shocked that he hadn't even tried to bolt for the nearest exit!

The villainess let out a small evil chortle, her hand cupping his chin gently and caressing his skin. Leo shivered at her touch to his own disgust AND enjoyment. "You're wondering why you haven't run away yet, aren't you?"

He tried ever so hard to not answer her question, but Leo found his mouth disobeying every other muscle in his body. "Yes, I am," he answered monotonously.

"Do you want to know?" Trakeena grinned almost impishly, letting one of her long nails trace a path down the contours of his jaw. "Because if you did, I would tell you..."

Leo wanted to say yes badly. He desired to know what was going on and why his body wasn't responding to him. He willed for his mouth to answer yes with every shred of energy he had within him, but it still didn't help him any. "No," his mouth replied as if it were another sentient being entirely. "I don't need answers. I just need you."

If it hadn't been for the fact that Leo was laying on his back, he would have vomited. Answering "his" words, Trakeena loomed over him with a hungry passion that he could see within her dark eyes. She quickly straddled him and proceeded to inch her face closer to his. "I'm glad you need me," she whispered throatily, firmly pressing her lips to Leo's.

Leo's mind immediately went into chaotic panic. He was withering underneath Trakeena's slimy kisses and her cold hands that roamed his body. He wanted scream out for help, or push Trakeena off of him or do anything to remove him from the situation that he was in, but his body refused.

His body followed Trakeena's...in all the acts she performed.

*****

Slow and hot tears poured from Leo's eyes at the memory...the oh so tainted memory of the night he had spent with Trakeena.

He knew that he had been under some kind of magical spell when he had been with Trakeena. It was more than obvious; but that didn't seem to ease the shame or the pain that came with the experience. "Nothing ever will," Leo whispered softly, his voice blending with the ocean breeze.

Karone was the first woman he had experienced without protest, which is why he said he had truly lost his virginity to her. Of course, it was under the emotions of his Galactabeast, but that didn't come into account. Leo was sure he would have wanted to be with Karone just as much, without the little help he got from Lion.

However, that didn't erase the fact that Trakeena had been the first "woman" Leo had experienced, period.

Karone had magic running through her blood. If he got close to her, opened himself up to her, she would certainly find his secret or at least feel it. He couldn't risk that factor...he REFUSED to. It had to be his secret and no one else's. He couldn't possibly ask someone to bare that burden, could he?

*****

"Are you sure that's all you want to have?" Mike stared skeptically at Karone as she stirred her glass of water absently with the straw. He hungrily chomped down on his hamburger and chewed.

The blonde nodded weakly, glancing up at him as he swallowed his food and then at his hamburger sitting on the plate before him. "Yeah, I'm fine," she murmured, wincing ever so slightly. "Watching YOU eat is actually kinda making me queasy."

"Well, I did bring you to this cafe to eat lunch," he grinned, motioning to the many tables around them in, which were almost all empty except for a few other GSA officers. "And I sure NEED to eat. I wasn't able to get around to eating breakfast this morning; got so caught up in working on the repairs and reading all the reports."

"I bet," Karone offered softly, still playing with her water. "You guys have done a good job in such a short time though. Nearly half of Terra Venture is fully-powered I hear."

"Yup," Mike agreed, somewhat proud of the quick work the repair crews had done. "Hopefully we won't have anymore trouble with the Galaxy Book."

She nodded yet again. "Kai's working on it," she replied, gazing off into the distance. Karone quickly returned her attention to him though. "Kai told you about what he was planning, right?"

"Yeah," he answered, taking another bite of his hamburger, chewing and then swallowing. "I hope it works."

"Me too."

A silence hushed over them both after the Pink Ranger's meek response and during that short period of time, Mike stared at Karone in concern.

She continued to stir her water with the straw it had come with, occupying herself with the littlest thing; as if she was trying to distract herself purposely. Her face looked pasty and bony and her eyes terribly tired. Her wrist moved with a continuous repetitive motion, turning and turning and turning.

"How do you feel Karone?" the question finally popped out of Mike's mouth, after much debate within his mind on prodding the tender subject.

"Horrible," she answered with one easy word. "Exhausted and sick."

"So Maya tells me," he voiced, his words embedded with loads of concern. He leaned a little closer to Karone and whispered, "Does this have anything to do with Leo?"

"It may," Karone spoke in her normal tone, meeting Mike's eyes. "I'm not quite sure yet."

For a moment, he was confused. However, once he understood what Karone meant, Mike's eyes instantly went wide with surprise. He never really had thought about the consequences that could have spawned from what Karone and his brother had done. "Do you think it is...?" he trailed off, questioningly. "I mean, couldn't you be just experiencing something else? Maybe the flu?"

Karone shook her head. She may not known two weeks ago, but she was almost positively sure now. "Have you ever eaten ice cream with cottage cheese before?" she queried innocently, but having a point to the seemingly off-topic question.

"No."

"Well, I have," she declared sincerely, the smallest of smiles gently touching her lips, "and it's pretty good. If you add some salt it's even better..."

Mike's stomach lurched as he listened to Karone describe her new-found delicacy, and immediately held his hand up for her to stop. "Okay, I believe you," he relented with a sigh. "So are you going to go see a doctor?"

"If I see a doctor it will be too much of a hassle. It's a miracle I can maintain a normal life here and I'm not about to jeopardize that," she explained, referring to her "celebrity" status. "I was going to see Alpha after our lunch."

"Then I release you from lunch early," he chuckled, glancing at his watch. "I'd better get back to work myself."

Mike was about to stand up from his chair when Karone reached out and grabbed his hand, squeezing it gently. "Mike, thank you for caring and being my friend. Leo couldn't have a better brother," she smiled, the smile bigger than before.

He returned her smile with a soft one of his own. "You're welcome," he acknowledged, walking away from the cafe and back towards the GSA tower.

Karone watched him fondly and slowly placed a hand to her stomach. "I hope you're more like Mike than Leo," she laughed ever so gently to herself.

*****

Karone walked down the empty corridors of the Astro MegaShip by herself, recalling the many memories she had made on that very ship.

She shared her childhood memories and exchanges with Andros. She talked avidly with Cassie and Ashley about everything they could think of. She was taught to work the MegaShip's controls by Carlos and TJ. She fell in love with Zhane...and fell out of love with him.

Of course, Karone hadn't known then when she fell out of love with her former fiance. Her heart still dully ached for Zhane's presence slightly, until that one day when Leo, bruised and bandaged, stumbled off of the medical bed and towards her. He nearly fell when he reached her and she gingerly wrapped her arms around him, supporting him as he stared at her in dire need.

Karone could now look back on that one instantaneous moment and say that that was the very second she fell out of love with Zhane, and fell in love with Leo. She had no doubt about it; just like she had no doubt that she was pregnant with Leo's child. That had been what the magic had been telling her that very first night, and she trusted her magic because it was a force beyond her; a force that had CHOSEN to bond with Karone.

"Karone!" Alpha Six's voice rang out as she turned into the Medical Bay. "You're here! Now, what was so important?"

Karone grinned gently. She knew Alpha knew about what had happened between Leo and her, and that he wouldn't pry about it...no matter how horrible she looked. After living on the MegaShip for two years before donating it to Angel Grove, she figured Alpha and DECA knew her habits fairly well. "I was wondering if you could run a general scan on me; I'm not feeling too well," she sighed, seating herself on the medical bed.

"Of course I can," Alpha quickly replied, picking up a scanner from a nearby tray and running it down Karone's body. "Anything that's been bothering you in particular?"

"Nausea..." Karone tried being fairly inconspicuous about knowing that she was pregnant, but finally decided enough was enough and came out with the truth. "Alpha, I'm pretty sure I'm pregnant, I just came to check to see if I was right."

"Well," Alpha laid the scanner aside and looked at the reformed villainess, "you are pregnant, Karone-"

The little robot was cut off by DECA's sudden announcement. "Kai is being attacked by Deviot in the Mountain Dome," her voice intoned throughout the MegaShip.

The Pink Galaxy Ranger immediately hopped off of the bed, racing towards the exit. "Karone, wait! You shouldn't go! Alpha cried after her, but it was no use.

She was already gone.

*****

Trakeena drummed her long nails on the handle of her throne in great satisfaction. She had the perfect plan to destroy the Power Rangers now that she knew the Pink Ranger's little secret. "It's quite sad actually," she scoffed to herself, grinning wickedly, "the former Queen Of Evil is now reduced to being good and carrying the spawn of the leader of the Power Rangers." She shivered. "Ugh...I'm glad that's not how my saga will end. It will never end of course, because I will rule the entire universe forever..."

She sighed, daydreaming about the day when the universe would be in her hands; there for her to mold and shape into any way she desired it to be. Trakeena knew it was no longer a dream, now that she had concocted this masterful plan of hers to destroy the rangers and Terra Venture after that. It was simply a matter of timing and execution now.

"TRAKEENA!" Villamax's voice rumbled from the hall and soon enough he appeared, running onto the bridge of the Scorpion Stinger. "Trakeena!"

"What? Is it something important?"

"Yes, it is my Queen," Villamax heaved as he approached the beautiful villainess' throne. "Deviot has gone down to Terra Venture without your permission. He has activated the Kionta Spell from the Galaxy Book!"

"WHAT?!?!" This time, Trakeena's tone was not one of annoyance but one of anger and shock. Her gaze quickly shifted to the rotating vision of Terra Venture on her viewscreen. "HOW DARE HE GO DOWN THERE WITHOUT SPEAKING TO ME! He has betrayed me!"

"What do you wish me to do, my Queen?"

"Get down to Terra Venture before that fool is destroyed and stop the rangers from defeating him," she gritted angrily through her white teeth. "Legend says that if the one who activates the Kionta Spell is defeated, the Galaxy Book and the surrounding area will be thrown into the Lost Galaxy. I will NOT allow that to happen...I MUST defeat those Power Rangers!"

Villamax nodded his head curtly and left the room hastily. As he left the room though, Trakeena saw the colony of Terra Venture suddenly blink out of sight from the viewscreen, leaving nothing but space to be seen.

"NO!" she screamed out in terrible anguish, smashing her fist down on her throne.

*****

"The Galaxy Book..." Maya breathed, as the five Galaxy Rangers approached the book where the mutated Deviot had thrown it to the ground. They had just defeated Deviot in a mean Zord battle and now returned to the original site where the villain had recited the Kionta spell.

They were about a few feet away from it, when they all stopped to stare a the book from afar for a moment. It sat wide open on the ground, the dirt scorched around it and some the pages' fringes were scorched also by the lightening. After a moment, Kai dared to approach it and lifted it from the ground into his outstretched arms, scanning over the open pages as if he was reading the foreign language.

All was calm for an instant, and then suddenly the sky of the Mountain Dome grew dark and cloudy, lightening striking down around them randomly from the artificial skies. The wind abruptly picked up in speed and Kai found his body being pushed back into the group of rangers as they huddled around trying to stay grounded.

The sky flashed with lightening a few more times, then stopped. The wind slowed down and the dome sky was back to its normal clear blue color. The group of five exchanged confused glances with one another, all glancing at the Galaxy Book clutched in Kai's hands at least once.

No one spoke until Leo finally broke the speechless communication that was taking place between them. "Come on!" he voiced, jogging towards the connector tunnel between the Mountain and City Domes.

Everyone quickly followed his lead, Karone following last as she lagged behind slightly.

Within a few minutes they were standing in the connector tunnel, gazing through the clear tunneling around them at the space surrounding them. "I can't believe it..." Damon uttered, completely blown away by what he was seeing.

The once bleak and black empty areas of space around them were now sparkling with vibrant colors. Swirls of pink and green and blue were splayed over the blackness, and stars glittered ever brighter. It was obvious they weren't where they had been just before.

"Where are we?" Leo mumbled just loud enough for all of them to hear barely. He leaned against the clear tunneling, staring outside with wide eyes.

Kai pulled open the Galaxy Book once more, his eyes speeding over the words written on the very page which Deviot had read from. He gasped. "We're in the Lost Galaxy..."

A silence bathed them all, a terrible haunting silence. The news that Deviot had somehow pulled them into the Lost Galaxy with the Kionta spell was extremely disturbing. They were all away from what they knew: different planets, different stars and different challenges. The thought left them all reeling.

Suddenly in the midst of their silence, Karone collapsed to the floor with a loud sob, her weak body shaking gently. "Karone!" Maya cried, instantly at her friend's side. She carefully placed her arms around the woman's shoulders, helping her sit up. "Karone, what's wrong?"

Karone heaved in a heavy breath, leaning against Maya for support as Kai, Damon and Leo created a semi-circle around the two. "I'm tired," she sighed, her eyes blinking slowly, "and I'm hungry and I'm alone. I have no one."

Laying the book aside, Kai kneeled down in front of Karone and placed his to her forehead. "She's feverish," he reported, glancing back at Leo and Damon who stood somewhat behind him. "We'd better get her back to her quarters so she can get some rest and some food in her."

The Pink Ranger stared into Kai's eyes, almost as if affirming his words. "Wait," she murmured faintly, while her gaze gradually moved over to Leo. Karone's own eyes instantly found the hidden worry that existed in Leo's, and with her eyes as her only tool of communication, she pleaded for him to kneel down beside her.

Although he did at first hesitate, Leo couldn't hold out for long as her dull blue eyes compelled him to obey. He squatted beside her as she had asked and waited for her to say something more. Soon enough, she did.

One of her hands feebly reached for his hand and took it within her gentle grasp. Karone pulled his hand to her abdomen and laid it on top of her stomach, sliding her hand on top of his. "Ours," she spoke clearly, trying to make him understand.

For a moment, Leo did the opposite of what Karone wanted him to do and he didn't understand. But as the word finally cross-referenced itself within his mind, he realized what she meant. He nodded his head gently, smiling the smallest of smiles. "Ours," he acknowledged.

*****

"Here," Leo offered Karone a mug of warm tea as she slowly and gently propped herself up in the bunk she was laying in. "This'll fill you up and settle your stomach."

Cautiously, she took the mug graciously from his hands with a smile. "Thank you," she thanked, holding the mug in both of her hands and taking a sip. "Mmmmmm...what tea is this? It's really good."

"A special herbal tea my mom taught me to make when I was younger," he answered easily, sitting down at the bottom of the bunk and watching Karone in utter fascination. "She always made it for me when I was sick; every time I drank it, it made me feel better."

Karone nodded, taking in another taste of the tea and relaxing her tense body. "Leo?" she spoke timidly, leaning against the pillows propped up behind her back.

"Yes," he replied immediately, completely focused on her, "Did you want something else?"

She opened her mouth for a second, then grinned gently. "Yeah. Can I get some more crackers?"

"Of course," Leo allowed, standing from where he stood in her quarters and into the kitchen.

Karone kept her rather tired eyes steadfast on Leo as he walked away, her thoughts trying to sort themselves out.

Leo had carried her to her quarters from the connector tunnel, while Kai, Damon and Maya had decided to go find Mike and tell him about what happened. Karone knew they were leaving more as a favor to her and Leo so they could talk, but so far both of them had danced around the subject entirely; neither one of them wanted to take the initiative, for they still had that awkward feeling around one another.

"Karone?"

She glanced up from her mug and saw Leo hovering above her, holding a bowlful of saltine crackers. "Hmm?" she queried with her weak voice.

"How are you feeling?" he spoke rather awkwardly, sitting down beside her on the bed and handing her the crackers.

"Better," she quickly diverted her eyes, putting the empty mug of tea on the small table beside her bunk. "I feel a lot better."

Another awkward silence fell upon them just like before. Both wanted to break it, but both hesitated so the silence simply droned on and remained even longer. "You know, I'm only three weeks along," Karone commented offhandedly while munching on a cracker.

"I know, " Leo replied, meeting her gaze and retaining it. His features eventually became soft, but still keeping a serious form to it. "Do you want to keep it?"

The pretty and young blonde nodded her head wordlessly. "I do want to keep it. I want this baby more than almost anything I've ever wanted in my entire life."

"Almost anything?"

Karone frowned slightly, looking away from Leo's eyes somewhat embarrassed to tell her deepest want and wish straight to his face. "More than anything else, I want you to forgive me," she mumbled quietly with a rather timid and shy tone.

He stared at her thoughtfully, truly touched by her words. "Karone," Leo reached for her, taking her delicate hand into his own strong one, "you don't have to worry about that. I forgave you a long time ago...it's just myself that I haven't forgiven yet." His words rang sweetly in the Pink Ranger's ears.

Karone turned to face him, leaning forward to get as close to him as possible without leaving the safety of her blankets. "Why can't you forgive yourself?" she asked sincerely, trying her best to not sound nosy. "If you can forgive me, you MUST be able to forgive yourself!" Karone's voice now pleaded with the Red Galaxy Ranger.

Leo blinked his eyes painfully, a glimmer of the experience he shared with Trakeena appearing in his memory. "I can't forgive myself because..." Leo trailed off, fixing his brown eyes on her beautiful blue ones, "...because, I love you Karone. I love you with all of my heart and soul."

"What?" Karone sputtered out instantly, her eyes going wide and starting to slightly water.

Leo took a deep breath and declared, "I love you, Karone. I've loved you ever since that day on the beach." He found the words naturally sliding off his tongue like second nature; much easier to say after the first time.

Her face took on a look of utter astonishment and then she quickly leaned over the side of the bunk and wretched in the trash can.

Leo jumped up from his seat and was at Karone's side, pulling her hair away from her face as she finished vomiting up the rest of the crackers she had just tried to digest. He rubbed her back with his hand gently as she coughed, tears spilling out of her eyes. "It's okay," he assured her with a soothing voice. "Just calm down and you'll feel better..."

Taking the towel that was on the table, Karone wiped her mouth and put it aside, returning into the comfort of her blankets. "I'm sorry," she sobbed, falling into Leo's arms that were wide open for her. Sniffling, she placed her head on his shoulder. "I, shouldn't have done, that."

"Shhhh," Leo slid his arms around her, his hand reaching to stroke her soft blonde hair, "that's okay. You're still sick and I startled you; it's okay."

Karone clung to his shirt tightly, her body wracking due to her heavy sobs. "I'm so tired, Leo," she hiccupped through her tears. "I want to sleep."

He gently pulled her away from his body reluctantly, missing the warmth of her against him. But he knew she needed to rest and regain her strength; she need to be strong for herself and their baby. He lowered her back down to lie against her pillows and draped the blankets over her. "Rest," he insisted with quiet, yet forceful voice as Karone's eyes began to flutter shut.

Within a few minutes, the Pink Ranger was out asleep and Leo bent to kiss her on the cheek with a longing touch. "Rest..."

*****

"So she told you already?"

Damon rolled his eyes as he walked through the corridor with Mike, both inspecting the extra damage that Terra Venture had taken during their shift from normal space into the Lost Galaxy. "It wasn't exactly difficult to tell Karone was pregnant, but when she told Leo it wasn't hard to piece together," he shrugged, a repair crew swiftly running past him.

"How'd Leo take it?" Mike question somewhat warily. Ever since Leo's weird behavior towards the five of them, he couldn't exactly pick out his younger brother's reactions like he could before. There was no telling how he would take to knowing that Karone was carrying his baby. After all, the situation in which he fathered the child wasn't exactly...ideal.

"Pretty well for a guy who has been on the brink for the last three weeks," the mechanic answered quite seriously. "I think that Karone telling him did more good things for his attitude than bad. He carried her back to her quarters, while the rest of us came down here."

Mike nodded, while they entered the bridge of Terra Venture's command complex. The entire room was in complete chaos as a few officers ran from console to console, one of those officers being Kai.

Nearly running head-long into Mike, Kai glanced up at his superior officer and friend, startled. "What's going on?" Mike arched his eyebrow in confusion.

Kai discreetly pulled both Damon and Mike aside, out back into the corridor away from the blinking sensors. "We've detected some kind of alien force out in the downtown part of the City Dome, and to add salt to our gigantic wound, we've temporarily lost all navigation..."

*****

Karone tossed restlessly in her sleep, almost as if her unconscious had her trapped in the most horrid of nightmares.

Leo knew better.

He knew that the magic that was part of Karone could sense evil presences on Terra Venture. He also knew that whenever she did sense it, she was always restless...expecting something to happen but not knowing where or when it would show up. So far, Karone's instincts had been right all the times before, and he didn't doubt that she was right this time either.

It was just a matter of leaving her alone. Something Leo didn't want to do, but knew he would have to ultimately in both body and emotion.

Leo sat rather timidly on the floor next to Karone's bunk, watching the many painful emotions fly across her face. Remorse, anxiety, sadness, fear...they were all a part of her at that time and there they were, laid out for Leo to see and to understand. Yet, he could not understand because to open up and to be with the woman he truly and deeply loved, would eventually hurt her.

He continued to wander through his painful thoughts until a soft hand gently touched his cheek, caressing it. He quickly responded by nuzzling back at the hand. "I can feel their presence," Karone whispered, as he turned to look at her once more. She was now looking much more vibrant, sitting up comfortably in her bunk.

"I know you can," he replied, nodding. "You weren't sleeping very peacefully for the last five minutes."

"Has anyone called?"

"Not yet. But when they do, I'm ready to go."

There was an awkward pause.

"I'm going too."

Leo stared at Karone sternly following her declaration. "No, you're not, Karone. I don't want you out there," he stated quite strongly.

Karone rolled her eyes slightly, annoyed but also flattered by Leo's earnest want to protect her as well as their unborn child. But she wasn't going to let him deny her this choice because she was positive that they would need her. The evil presence she felt within her was fierce and was also distinctly familiar. "You're going to need me," she insisted in a firm voice, staring directly into his brown eyes.

"We can survive," Leo retorted just as his morpher/communicator chimed. Ripping his gaze away from hers, he spoke into his morpher, "Something going on?"

"Some new pirate aliens and Deviot are in the City Dome tearing everything up in sight," Damon's voice resounded.

Leo glanced at Karone, who was still glaring at him in annoyance, and then returned his attention to the conversation he was having at hand. "I'll be there," he responded, shutting off his communicator. He stood up and began walking towards the front door, until he realized that Karone was walking right behind him in the shirt and sweats she had worn in bed.

He spun around, and Karone simply stood calm and still. "I'm going, Leo," she persisted, holding her ground. "You can't stop me."

Leo slowly moved his hand to rub against Karone's face, smiling ever so slightly. Leaning towards her, he cupped his hand against her jaw while gently meeting her lips and giving the blonde a lengthy passionate kiss. She instantly responded to him, kissing back as her arms slid around him and pulled him in closer.

Reluctantly, the young man pulled away, breathless. "Now," he whispered delicately, his thumb brushing along her lips, "as you recover from that, I'm going to go fight Deviot," and with that, he ran out of her quarters.

Karone stood there, her gaze fixed on the front door that just closed. "Damn you, Leo Corbett, for being such a good kisser..."

*****

"Guys, I'm here!" Leo called out as he ran onto the scene of the fight, waving his Quasar Saber up in the air, trying to draw attention to him.

Leo's plan worked easily, seeing as the first monster to charge him was Deviot. "Ah, we meet again, Red Ranger," Deviot sneered, sounding quite satisfied with himself.

"A little happy, are we?" Leo mocked, swiping Deviot's sword away from him.

"I am always glad when I get a chance to destroy the Red Ranger," the monster chortled, slashing at Leo's mid-section with his sword and making solid contact.

Leo cried out in surprise, the impact of the direct hit causing him to completely flip forward over Deviot's sword. The Galaxy Ranger landed hard on his back, one gloved arm clutching his abdomen as a sudden piercing pain shot through him. "What's wrong, Red Ranger?" the evil villain loomed over Leo's squirming form. "Not up to your normal strength today?"

Angrily, Leo bit back an aching groan and with his free hand grabbed tightly at the tip of Deviot's sword, jerking not only his sword but Deviot forward as well.

Recovering, Leo scrambled to stand up, picking his Quasar Saber up off the ground quickly. "I'm just fine, Deviot. And how are you?" he snapped at his enemy as he stood up from his fall.

"I am QUITE alright," the evil man shot back, somewhat pissed off at Leo now. Deviot glanced around at the surrounding fights for a second, finally taking notice of the Pink Ranger's absence. "And where is your reformed Astronema now?"

A snarl instantly morphed upon Leo's lips beneath his helmet. "I'd be more concerned about myself if I were you!" he warned, jumping up into the air and landing before Deviot. The Red Ranger swiftly delivered a blow to the villain's mid-section with his sword, sending him flying backwards.

Slamming into the side of a building, Deviot couldn't help but chuckle as he stood up easily, brandishing his blaster on his arm. He targeted Leo and immediately fired upon the Power Ranger many times until he was lying on the ground. "I'll be back, Red Ranger, and when I am I will not show you as much mercy!"

Deviot and his orange henchmen disappeared from the battle site following his words.

Rolling over onto his side, Leo slowly forced himself to stand up while his teammates rallied around him. "Are you alright, Leo?" Kai asked with concerned, clasping his hand down on his friend's shoulder.

Leo nodded. "Yeah, I'll be fine, just a little sore later on. What were those things that were helping Deviot?" he questioned in slight disgust.

"You missed Deviot's grand entrance," Mike chuckled, sliding his sword back into its sheath. "He said he was working with a more powerful force than Trakeena here in the Lost Galaxy. Deviot called him "Captain Mutiny"..."

"...and he called those things Swabbies," Maya picked up for Mike. "They were harder to fight off than the usual Stingwingers."

After a short discussion on the topic of Deviot, the five Rangers split up going their different ways.

*****

The early the following morning, Karone woke up to a beeping sounds coming from the computer database in the quarters. "Sleep," she mumbled out loud, pulling the covers over her head and trying to drown out the sound.

Of course, the beeping didn't relent and she couldn't go back to sleep. Eventually, Karone lazily dragged herself out of her bunk and headed towards the computer database, but not before looking back at Maya, who was completely sound asleep. "I wish I could do that," she moaned sleepily, sitting down before the computer.

Noticing that the database was bleeping because it held a message, Karone accessed the messages on the computer. She instantly found the newest message, which had only been sent ten minutes before. The blonde opened the message and read through its text, a small smile lighting her dreary features when she finished reading it.

Nearly fully awake now, Karone jumped up and started to get dressed.

*****

"LEO!"

Karone walked through the darkened park near the daycare where she had first kissed Leo. She recalled just how she felt the moment before their lips had touched and a warm smile caressed her lips. "A flood of emotions overcame me," she whispered lightly to herself. "Most of them weren't mine, but that doesn't matter anymore. I love Leo completely and utterly; nothing will ever stop me from feeling that way."

She continued to wander through the quiet morning darkness, quite content. The message she had read on the computer database had been an e-mail from Leo. He had wanted her to come to the park as soon as possible to meet him so they could talk. Karone was somewhat surprised why Leo would be up so early, but she figured his new job at the stables probably started early. Nothing too out of the ordinary.

"Leo?" she called out again, looking for the man she loved. Where was he? He should have been there; after all he was the one who called her!

Karone abruptly heard the rustling of leaves cutting through the near dead silence. The sudden sound didn't frighten her because she was most at home in the darkness, but the sound certainly did startle her a bit. "Leo?" she spoke his name, her voice less confident.

She heard the rustling noise once more, and backed up into a tree. Karone's wide blue eyes darted left and right, searching for the origination of the sounds.

Unexpectedly, a cold hand wrapped around her mouth and the other slinked tightly around her stomach. Karone tried to scream, but her voice was absolutely muffled by the hand clasped over her mouth. She squirmed in the person's grasp for a moment, but immediately stopped doing so remembering her baby and noticing just HOW tight their grip was on her stomach.

"That's was fairly easy, now wasn't it?" an all too familiar voice chuckled as they removed their hand slowly from her mouth.

"Deviot!" Karone tried to scream as loud as she could, but it came out sounding muffled still as Deviot tightened his grip on her abdomen.

Deviot snickered at the Pink Ranger's attempts to try and draw attention to herself. "So you and the Red Ranger are having a love affair now?" he arched his eyebrow in disgust. "Pathetic humans..."

"You sent me that message!" Karone squeaked out delicately, trying to not provoke him into holding her any tighter.

"How smart of you to finally figure that out!" Deviot mocked her then turned back to his questioning. "So why weren't you there yesterday, Pink Ranger?"

"That's none of your business!" she spat heatedly, then bit on her lip wishing she could quickly take back the words that she knew she couldn't.

Deviot's arm squeezed around her even harder. "Watch your mouth, little girl!"

"PLEASE!" Karone cried out as loud as she could, the pain of Deviot's hold around her finally getting to her. "Please let me go!"

"You tell me what I want to know, and you'll be just fine," he snapped her, jerking her to one side.

By this time, the pain was simply overwhelming all of her senses and she simply couldn't stand it any longer. "Alright," she sobbed tiredly in Deviot's arms. She was trying to protect herself and her unborn child, but either way she would have to endanger them: let Deviot crush her or let Deviot know that she was carrying Leo's child and have him come after her continuously. There simply was no easy choice. "I wasn't there yesterday because of Leo."

Deviot loosened his grip ever so slightly, intrigued by the information that Karone was spilling to him. "Why because of the Red Ranger?" he questioned sharply.

Tears gently ebbed from the blonde's eyes as she divulged her secret. "I'm pregnant with his baby," she told him straight out, unhappily held against her will in Deviot's grasp still.

Deviot simply laughed. "What interesting news," he declared as his sword appeared in his free hand. He brought it up close to Karone's neck, chuckling. "Congratulations."

"Wh-wha-what are you doing?" she stuttered in fright, staring down at the sharp blade being pressed to her skin. "You said I'd be fine if I told you why..."

Another chuckle from Deviot cut off Karone and his hand firmly tightened around her abdomen once more. "Dear little girl, you of all people should know better that us villains don't keep our promises..."

*****

Part Four

"...so see now, Karone's having a baby and well, I just can't bare to tell her that I can't be with her," Leo confessed in a mourning tone. "It'll be hard enough to see her again, wanting to be with her so badly."

The Lion Galactabeast softly growled in acknowledgement of Leo's words, after sitting attentively before his master and listening to his problems.

Leo grinned in early morning darkness, lying back on the ground. "It's so good to be able to..." his words suddenly stopped in mid-sentence, a feeling of dread and fright flooding through him. He quickly popped up into a seated position once again. "What the...KARONE!"

*****

"I should've known," Karone growled heatedly, leaning her neck back as far as she could, trying to avoid the sharpened blade of Deviot's sword.

If Deviot was able to grin, he would have shown a twisted, evil grin. "Yes, little girl, you SHOULD have known," his voice was tainted with a deep menace, continuing to press his sword to the blonde woman's neck hoping to draw blood. He eventually did.

A small line of red blood suddenly appeared across Karone's throat, and while she couldn't see it, she could definitely feel the warn blood gradually trickling down her pale skin. She squirmed much more than before, letting out a terribly frightened squeal of horror.

"Come now," Deviot teased her, adjusting his grip on her, "don't be such a human. Scared at the notion of blood...it just isn't befitting of the girl who once claimed the name Astronema."

Karone's wispy blonde bangs blew into her face as they escaped the confines of her loose ponytail. "Astronema is dead," she declared is a cold, yet somewhat hoarse, sounding voice.

"How wrong you are, little girl," Deviot mocked her knowingly. "Astronema simply lies dormant within you. It's up to you to awaken her from-"

"KARONE!"

Karone jerked her head up despite the pain that came with it, grinning like a complete idiot through her tears. "LEO!" she cried back at his red morphed form running towards her.

"I'M COMING! HOLD ON!" he shouted back to Karone, assuring her.

Deviot quickly turned his attention back to his "project" he had been working on before the two lovers cries' had interrupted him. His sword's edge delicately lacerated a gentle, stinging cut to her neck with much more purpose this time around. He felt her fidget and cringe against his body, but she didn't dare scream out again.

Leo slowed his run to a speedy, but hesitant walk. He could see the blonde withering within the devious monster's grasp. "Let her go, Deviot," he commanded forcefully, his voice never wavering to reveal his deep fear.

"Any particular reason I should, Red Ranger?" Deviot slid the question out easily. His voice resounded with amusement towards the Galaxy Ranger's empty threat.

"Besides the reasons that she is in danger and you're just plain evil scum?"

Karone winced as her captor nodded his head eagerly. "Yes, besides those two things..."

Leo's face was covered with utter confusion behind the mask of his helmet. He didn't see the point of Deviot playing mind games with him; after all, Leo was pretty sure that wasn't Deviot's ultimate dream.

He glanced to Karone, making "eye contact" with her. The real hurt in her eyes described the terror he could literally sense emanating from her, emotions flooding all of his senses. Her eyes darted downwards, towards her stomach, then quickly upwards to look at Deviot. He was pretty sure she was trying to signal something to her, but he couldn't understand. That is until a soft voice wafted into his ear, "Deviot knows about..." Leo quickly glanced up to see, Karone slowly mouthing the words and using her magic to enhance her voice.

For a moment, he was silent and in shock, but Leo hastily shook it off and replied Deviot, "Just let her go." He unsheathed his Quasar Saber and held it out defensively. "You don't need her."

"Who says, Red Ranger?" Deviot chortled in a devilish manner. He was attracted by the thought of a battle and moved his own sword away from Karone's neck to meet the tip of Leo's.

Knowing that she had been given a chance to free herself, Karone elbowed her captor in the gut causing him to stumble backwards in surprise. She instantly made a beeline for Leo, who caught her in his arms and held her protectively close.

The two flew away in a teleportation streak meshed of pink and red, just as Deviot lifted himself up from the grass and snorted in satisfaction.

*****

"Did you get the information you required?"

"Yes."

"So you're plan was successful?"

"Of course not."

"You ain't making any sense, Deviot!" Captain Mutiny thundered, quite annoyed with his fellow villain's twisted words.

Deviot shrugged carelessly, walking across the bridge of Captain Mutiny's ship. "I usually don't make sense until the last moment, Captain. If you want my help to get your hands on the Galaxy Book and get more slaves, I suggest you get used to it."

Mutiny watched him leave the bridge and narrowed his good eye at the retreating form of the monster. He was sure Deviot had another agenda going, but he frankly didn't care. Mutiny was happy so long as Deviot kept up his side of their newly constructed alliance and found him more slaves to dig for his many treasures.

*****

"I could kill Deviot for this," Leo growled furiously, marching down the corridors of the Astro MegaShip with Karone by his side.

"I'm sorry," Karone whimpered, the stinging sensation of her cuts hurting even more every time she tried to talk. "I'm sorry I told him."

They both slowed down as they approached the Medical Bay's entrance. Leo slipped his arms around Karone, almost in a self-conscious manner, reassuring her. "Shhh...don't talk. It's more than okay; knowing Deviot you most likely had no choice in the matter."

The two stepped into the Medical Bay and Leo quickly helped Karone prop herself up on the table, then grabbed a dermal regenerator from nearby. "Good thing these are only skin-deep cuts. It's probably the only thing Deviot did RIGHT out there!" he unconsciously snapped in irritation. He gently tipped her head to one side to reveal her cuts, dry blood clinging to her skin. He stroked the nape of her neck with his free hand, trying to give her comfort to counter the pain.

"When did you become a doctor, hmm?" she whispered with a soft laughing tone.

He smiled jokingly, running the regenerator over her neck's side. "I became certified when I spent more than five hours in here and THAT happened about a week after I became a Power Ranger," he retorted playfully, setting the medical device to the side.

The blonde chuckled, reaching up to touch her neck where she had been cut just moments before. "I fell into that trap like a fool," she groaned unpleasantly. "I should have KNOWN you wouldn't be up at this hour; wishful thinking I guess."

"Actually I was up," he remarked off-handedly. "It's always nice to get out and talk to your Galactabeast when you have insomnia."

Karone arched an eyebrow peculiarly and cracked a grin. "What were you telling Lion?"

"Same old, same old," Leo shrugged vaguely, thinking back to earlier that morning when he had made Lion sit down and listen to him rant; even though Leo knew that he would have no idea what Lion was saying if he responded. "About us and how I can't be with you..."

"You aren't very funny, you know."

"Who says I'm trying to be?" Leo grunted dejectedly, jumping up to sit on the medical bed beside the blonde. He paused suddenly searching for a way to explain his thoughts without giving her any of the details of his encounter with Trakeena.

"I love you, Karone. I love you for your spirit, your stubbornness and your strength. I could say that ten thousands times and still it would be true! But circumstances beyond my power won't let me be with you the way you want me to be and the way I want me to be!"

Karone bit her lip tightly, trying to stop the few tears she had from tumbling down her cheeks. She shot Leo a furious glare. "What circumstances?!" she cried hotly. "How can there be circumstances!"

"There ARE circumstances," Leo replied back, being somewhat forceful. "Circumstances you can't know about; that I have to keep to myself."

All was silent and Karone absorbed his words. She had heard the tone in his voice many times before, but not from him. She had heard the tone in herself, just after she died as Astronema and finally reclaimed her "pleasant" life as Karone. Her past had tormented her in those early days and she refused to get close to Zhane because of her deep fear that she would somehow hurt him. She used to argue with him at every chance, telling him they couldn't be together...

"Leo, is there something you aren't telling me?"

Turning his head away from her and staring down at the metallic floor like a shameful little boy, the younger man nodded his head slowly.

She was just about to reach out and touch him, try to get him to open up to her, but she instantly stopped herself. She remembered how it felt when Zhane kept on prodding at her; sure, it helped her open up to him after awhile, but it also made her more determined to push him farther away. So instead, Karone carefully hopped down from the medical bed and stood before Leo. "I understand. I'll keep my distance until you're ready," she promised him fully, knowing that she would be able to keep the promise for Leo's sake.

As she walked out of the room, Karone could feel his eyes peering at her back and her blood stirred within her; a hopeful reaction.

*****

The winds blew a touch hotter against Leo's cheek as the seasonal climate of Terra Venture slowly eased from spring into summer. It didn't quite bother him though, since the weather was quite cool that day and he was out trotting the horses around the track at the stables.

It had been a little over a month and a half since Karone had announced her pregnancy and he had proclaimed his love for her, as well as letting her go. They had returned to being civil friends and teammates, which Leo decided was better than being feuding teammates.

Captain Mutiny and Deviot kept the attacks fairly random on Terra Venture through that time, trying to kidnap people from the colony but always failing when the Galaxy Rangers would arrive to save the day. It almost became monotonous for the team of six as they came to expect attacks whenever.

Leo didn't protest against Karone's morphing and fighting in her condition either. He knew her spirit and he knew her, so he had no reason to worry for her as much as he had before. She knew her own limitations, and yet, as Leo pulled away from her once more, he ached for her ten times more. It hurt him, but he felt it was for the best.

The nightmares had become much more vivid and came to him far more often though. Leo dreaded the night, because he knew it was then he would sleep and the dreams would occupy his mind, haunting him. He tried staying awake for long periods of time, but that always seemed to fail when he wouldn't be able to keep his eyes open any longer. He simply wished that the nightmares would leave him alone so he wouldn't have to constantly relive the most horrifying night of his life.

Leo cast himself up from his own reverie, slowing the horse down as he approached the stalls. Unsaddling the horse, he lead the beautiful black mare back into its stall and quickly brought out the white horse he grown attached, prepared it, and walked it out onto the track. Before he could saddle the horse though, Leo stood still as he sensed Karone's familiar presence.

His eyes darted around himself and he spotted her crossing a nearby field, heading towards her quarters most likely. His dark brown eyes stayed steady upon her small shadowed form in the distance, intently gazing. She was wearing a long black skirt with a light pink top as far as he could tell from his distance; no longer wearing her leather clothing anymore as her stomach slowly began to grow. Her blonde hair, which had grown past her shoulder blades, blew away from her face in the free breeze.

Leo watched her until she disappeared behind a grouping of buildings and from his sight. It was more than evident he wanted her, but after so long, he wasn't sure if she wanted him back.

*****

Karone stepped across the wide grass field, deciding to take a short-cut home that day from the daycare center. Truth be told, she wasn't taking the short-cut back to her quarters because it was shorter; it was actually longer.

She had taken it because she had wanted to see Leo at the stables.

Turning ever so slowly to her left she could see his silhouette in the bright sun that was facing her, still continuing to walk. He was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a red tank top that clung to his chest with a bit of sweat. With his back turned to her, Leo worked steadfast on saddling a white horse that stood before him. His dark brown hair was ever messy as he moved around to try and climb up onto the horse.

Karone snapped her gaze away from lone figure and faced ahead, walking home, but walking a lot slower than before. She savored the rush of feelings that overwhelmed her when she felt his eyes fall upon her and simply stare at her. More than anything, knowing that he still looked at her in that way after nearly two months felt absolutely good. She knew she had done the right thing by letting Leo go for awhile. He needed the time, and perhaps she had too.

For the past month and a half, Karone had spent plenty of time by herself considering what she and Leo had; whether it was real, or it was just their feelings from the Galactabeasts still talking. She considered it being the latter reason for quite awhile because of the simple fact that not until they both trusted one another would they be free of their zords' reflections.

That is until one night when she realized that they did trust one another, even though it didn't seem like they did. Leo trusted her to make her own decisions and she trusted him to do the exact same thing. Then she was sure that her love for him was real and hopefully, his for her was echoed the same.

*****

"Are you sure you feel fine?" Maya asked cautiously, approaching Karone from across their quarters.

Finishing off the glass of water she had been drinking as she got ready to go to sleep, Karone nodded her head. "Yeah, I feel fine, Maya," she assured with a laughing grin, setting the glass in the kitchen sink. "I actually think my stomach can finally handle Kai's cooking again."

"No more crackers and ice cream in the middle of the night?" the brunette winked teasingly, moving to lie back in her hammock.

"No more crackers," Karone affirmed, padding over to her bunk. "I'm pretty sure I'll keep the ice cream though. It's a lot better than other things I can choose to eat at midnight."

Both young women giggled for a moment, recalling the time Maya had caught Karone awake at two in the morning, sitting at the kitchen counter and munching away on a sandwich composed of pineapples, cheese and mayonnaise.

Karone climbed into her bunk and pulled the covers over her, smiling. "Computer, lights off," she commanded, the lights instantly switching off and blanketing the quarters into darkness.

Perhaps tonight she would be able to go through the night without another food craving.

*****

"NOOOOOOO!!!!!"

Kai jumped up suddenly from his peaceful sleep, awakened by the blood-curdling scream. "NOO!" he heard the scream again, somewhat softer but not by much.

Hearing rustlings above him, Kai turned to look up at the bunk above him to see Damon peering down at him, half-asleep. "You mind keeping you're voice down, Kai! I'm trying to sleep!" he snapped irritably.

The Blue Ranger shrugged. "It's not me!" he insisted forcibly. "I think it's Leo; he may be having a nightmare."

"No kidding!" Damon agreed, as they heard Leo cry out loudly in his sleep once more. "That's got to be one HELL of a nightmare!"

The two hastily climbed out of their bunks and down the ladder to the ground, where they could see Leo thrashing in his lower bunk; his hands balled into tight fists, his eyes shut firmly, and sweat beading down his face. "Crap..." Damon breathed underneath his breath, totally startled by Leo's condition.

For a few hesitant moments, both men watched as their teammate pleaded and cried for mercy in his sleep. "Leo, wake up," Kai nudged the young man's shoulder a few times, trying to awaken him. "Come on, Leo, wake up..."

Kai pushed on Leo harder a few more times to no avail. It was then when Damon joined him and they both began to try shaking the Red Ranger awake, but still his howls on pain continued on. "DAMN! LEO, GET UP!" Damon yelled directly at Leo, his voice touched with worry for his friend.

"He's not waking up," Kai gaped, staring at Leo's tortured form. "We've got to go get the others."

Grabbing his robe, Damon went blazing out the front door; knowing exactly what Kai had meant.

*****

Maya sleepily rose from her hammock, glancing absently at the clock as she stumbled into the kitchen. 0230 hours.

"You kept the ice cream," Maya mumbled, pulling a stool up to the kitchen counter and sitting down across from where Karone sat in her sweats, a giant serving spoon stuck straight into a large bucket of Rocky Road ice cream in front of her. Off to the side, a half-eaten pickle sat in a bowl.

The blonde nodded in the darkness, scooping a giant hunk of the ice cream onto her spoon and sticking as much as she could in her mouth. "Want some?" she offered with a simple smile, pushing the carton towards Maya a little bit.

"I would," Maya grinned tiredly, waiting for Karone to hand her a small spoon, which she did a moment later.

The two dug their spoons into the ice cream, eating away at the delicious delicacy, when their doorchime abruptly rang. Hungrily, Karone grabbed the tub of Rocky Road off of the counter and walked over to the door, pushing it open to view the Green Galaxy Ranger at her doorstep in a state of disarray. "Damon?" she queried, licking on her large spoon covered in ice cream. "What are you doing here?"

Damon took the blonde woman by the shoulders squarely and stared down into her blue eyes. She gazed back into his brown eyes and saw them swimming in worry. "What's wrong?" She lowered the spoon from her lips, placing it back into the tub of ice cream. "You usually don't freak out this bad unless it's something critical, Damon."

By this time, Maya had meandered her way over to the doorway also, standing right behind Karone.

"It's Leo," he answered, his hands still set on Karone's shoulders. "He's...well, he's having a nightmare and he won't wake up. I didn't know who to get; I thought you could help."

Karone's eyes went wide in horror, and quickly she tried sensing Leo, but she couldn't feel him. There was a solid wall surrounding his emotions and senses. Unconsciously, she dropped the carton of ice cream to the floor and went running down the corridor towards the guy's quarters.

Not even bothering to press the doorchime, Karone hit the keypad and entered the room, rushing to the lowest bunk where Leo slept a tortured sleep. "He's been like this for about ten minutes now; he was screaming in his sleep before," Kai gently told her, backing away from his post at Leo's bedside and letting her take over.

Karone nodded her solemnly towards Kai, kneeling on her knees beside Leo and brushing his flushed cheeks with her hand as he tossed and turned restlessly. His hair was mussed and his bangs clung to the sheen of sweat that coated his forehead. His eyes darted frantically beneath his eyelids and his arms pushed away at imaginary demons spawned in his nightmare.

She tried again to sense his emotions, but she found once again that she couldn't and that the wall preventing her from feeling them had become twice as strong. "Open up to me," she begged softly, hurt slowly setting into her while she watched the man she loved struggle in pain. "Please, to save yourself, Leo...open up to me."

Every endless night has a dawning day
Every darkest sky has a shining ray
And it shines on you baby can't you see
You're the only one who can shine for me

As she pleaded quietly, Karone could have sworn she felt the slightest relent in Leo's mental barrier, but it still stood strong against her tries to surpass it.

Slowly she stood up from her spot on the floor and carefully moved herself to sit on the bunk beside Leo's thrashing figure. "Leo," she whispered comfortingly, taking one of his wild hands into her own and holding it close to her. "Leo, please, wake up; let me in."

It's a private emotion that fills you tonight
And a silence falls between us
As the shadows steal the light
And wherever you may find it
Wherever it may lead
Let your private emotion come to me
Come to me

She felt him calm down slightly, but still he was wildly entrapped in his nightmare. Leaning forward a tiny bit, Karone shifted to kiss him on the cheek, yet she was slapped straight across the cheek by Leo's motivated hand. She yelped out, falling backwards on the bunk.

"Karone!" Maya called to her from somewhere in the quarters.

Karone ignored the slap and the stinging pain that rose in her cheek, and returned her full attention back to Leo. "You aren't going to get rid of me that easily..."

When your soul is tired
and your heart is weak
Do you think of love
as a one way street?
Well it runs both ways,
open up your eyes
Can't you see me here,
how can you deny

Karone eased herself on top of Leo's twisting body, her legs straddled over his abdomen so as to keep him in one place. She pinned down his arms with her hands, barely keeping herself from falling over as he wrestled to free himself from her grasp over him.

After a few minutes of hesitation, Karone finally did what she knew she would have to eventually do. Throwing her body and soul both into the chaos that was Leo, she kissed him passionately and fervently, as she had wanted to do since what felt like forever to her.

It's a private emotion that fills you tonight
And a silence falls between us
As the shadows steal the light
And wherever you may find it
Wherever it may lead
Let your private emotion come to me
Come to me

To her utter surprise, when Karone began to move against him, Leo suddenly began to respond and slipped his tongue past her lips into her mouth, his searching for her own. She quickly answered his search, entwining her tongue with his amorously.

As he responded to her, Leo also opened up to Karone and his mental walls faded away. Images and thoughts and emotions completely flooded the blonde as she lounged in the sensual touches shared with her lover, and when it was all said and done, Karone could only feel mounds and mounds of sympathy for the man she loved so earnestly.

Every endless night has a dawning day
Every darkest sky has a shining ray
It takes a lot to laugh as your tears go by
But you can find me here
'til your tears run dry

Tenderly, she pulled away from the ardent kiss and stared him straight in the eye. "She hurt you," she stated clearly, her hand cradling his jaw.

Nodding shamefully, Leo blinked his eyes fretfully, holding back his tears that had began to form. "She did hurt me," he replied, soft-spoken, reaching back to push Karone's stray hairs hanging out of her messy braid.

"I could never hurt you, Leo," Karone assured whole-heartedly, her thumb grazing across his quivering lips. "I love you too much to hurt you like she did. I won't let it happen to you again."

Leo brought her down to his chest and wrapped his arms around Karone, hugging her loosely. He inhaled her heavenly smell, feeling more at peace than he had ever been. "Thank you."

It's a private emotion that fills you tonight
And a silence falls between us
As the shadows steal the light
And wherever you may find it
Wherever it may lead
Let your private emotion come to me

The couple stayed in their content embrace until they heard coughing noises from the other side of the quarters. Both of them glanced up and towards the kitchen to see Maya, Kai and Damon standing and waiting. "Did you want us to leave?" Damon grinned, propped up against the counter still in his robe.

Leo sat halfway up, Karone continuing to cling to his chest with his arm wrapped around her. "That would be very convenient," he retorted in a joking manner.

"I bet," Damon muttered underneath his breath, receiving a nudge to the ribs from Maya.

"Come on, you two." Maya tugged the two men out of the quarters and into the corridor. "You guys can stay in our quarters for the rest of the night."

The last thing both Karone and Leo heard before the doors closed behind their friends was and cry of surprise from Kai and Damon, "The rest of the night?!"

The both of them laughed gaily, Leo lowered himself back down onto the bunk, cuddling the older but rather alluring woman in his arms. They were silent for a moment. "I missed you," Leo murmured into her hair, kissing the top of her head. "I'm sorry that Trakeena, of all people, came between us."

"Don't be," Karone insisted, leaning her ear against his chest and listening to the steady beat of his heart. "You had every right to keep that from me; it was a traumatic experience."

Leo nodded his head. "But I should have known you would have understood," he countered with a heavy sigh. "I wasn't fair to you to hurt you like I did."

"It wasn't fair, but it was right for you," she explained easily, playing her fingers against his bare chest. "That's how I made it, because I had a little hope that you wouldn't totally give up on me."

"I could never give up on you," he related to her, his hand sliding beneath her to stroke at her small belly. "I could never give up on you or our baby. Not when the both of you need me and not when I need the both of you."

Snuggling into his arms, she sighed contentedly. "I love you, Leo."

"I love you too, Karone."

*****

Leo and Karone strolled out of the movie theater arm in arm on the warm Friday night on their first actual date as a solid and stable couple. "I'm hungry," Karone whined softly, sliding her free hand to wrap around her grumbling stomach.

"Still?" Leo teased her, pulling Karone close to him as they began to walk towards their car. "You ate a whole tub of popcorn when we were watching the movie and you wouldn't let me eat any!"

They both laughed merrily, recalling how she had hoarded her food away from him throughout the entire two hours they spent watching the movie. "Hey! I'm carrying your baby here and it was just as hungry as I was! Besides, I have the awesome craving for jellybeans and peanut butter."

"You have jellybeans at home?"

"No..."

Leo now stood before the driver's side door of the car, staring at his girlfriend who stood on the other side of the vehicle. "You wanna go get some jellybeans?" he asked, opening the car door and sitting down in the drivers' seat.

Karone nodded her head, also climbing into the car. "Could we, please?" she beseeched him, weaving her fingers through his and kissing the back of his hand. "Just for now?"

Leo pretended to consider her request for a moment, when in reality he had already given into the beautiful blonde's begging. "Only if you kiss me," he haggled with her in a playful manner.

"That's it?"

Leo was about to protest when Karone slid up against him and lightly kissed him, her breath lingering on his lips. She pressed against him once more, this time giving him a longer and stronger kiss, which Leo slowly yet surely returned.

Gently drawing away, he spoke quietly, "You didn't hear the rest of my deal."

Karone simply grinned. "What?"

"You have to promise to be with me every Friday night, come rain or shine," he whispered fondly, his fingers softly stroking the back of her neck.

"I think I can manage that," she winked, pulling in closer to him once more.

*****

Mike rode up the elevator in silence to Deck Four, anxiously hoping to catch his brother home on that Friday night. Of course, he knew that would be far beyond impossible since Leo had literally made it a ritual to be out with his girlfriend every Friday night since they had come to terms four weeks ago.

Mike was happy for Leo and Karone; they deserved to be together after all the things that had kept them apart emotionally. But he was incredibly concerned for Karone's welfare that night as well as his younger brother's and the rest of the Galaxy Rangers, whom all associated with Karone on a daily basis.

His concern was well-warranted because as the doors to the elevator opened up to the deck, he was completely surrounded by reporters, cameras, lights and microphones. If he had to guess, he would have thought that at least thirty, if not more, media personnel of all types were crowding in on him, firing out blurs of words and sounds at him.

Struggling against the flow of media trying to get one single word out of him, Mike made his way over to Leo, Kai and Damon's quarters, quickly sliding open the door and then shutting it just as fast behind himself.

He glanced around the quarters to see Maya, Kai and Damon huddled around the coffee table around the room, quietly chattering. "How many are out there now?" Kai queried, glancing up to face Mike.

"More than thirty," he replied with a heavy sigh, sitting down on the sofa beside Maya. "So Leo and Karone aren't here after all, hmm?"

"Good thing they aren't," Damon answered his rhetorical question, picking up the remote up off the table and flipping the television on to a random station. "It's all over the TV and you can't even turn on the radio without getting an earful about it."

They all stared at the television screen for a few moments as the news anchorman that was on babbled. "...and as we have been reporting for the last hour and a half that the rumors about the former villainess Astronema, Karone, being pregnant are true. More rumors continue to flow in about Karone's links to the Galaxy Rangers and that perhaps one of them is Zhane, the former Silver Ranger..."

"This is nauseating," Maya groaned repulsively, grabbing the remote from Damon and turning the television off. "Don't they have anything better to report about?"

"How did this get out?" Kai shook his head unbelievably, leaning back in his chair with his eyes shut. "I mean, it's been four months since and we kept it a damn good secret...how could it possibly have exploded in our faces?"

"She works at the daycare center and she's finally starting to actually show," Damon deduced quite easily. "One of the parents or one of her co-workers could have seen her and told someone in the media."

Maya sighed in exasperation. "I thought people knew how to respect Karone's privacy. It WAS one of those major things that we did have to deal with when Karone started working and being less elusive on Terra Venture."

"Looks like somebody forgot," Mike remarked somewhat spitefully as the silence of the quarters settled over them. "And now this thing is going to get way out of hand. They're going to be turning to the us more and more for answers; both as her friends and as Power Rangers."

"Here's one lucky streak," Kai pointed out, sounding morose. "The media still thinks that Karone is engaged to Zhane, especially the way they are speculating about his being one of us. Leo will be out of the limelight more or less."

Mike frowned tiredly. "Frankly, if I were Leo right now, I'd want to be in the limelight with my girlfriend to at least help her through everything; I definitely think he'll have a chance at that too. I just hope they'll be careful coming home tonight."

Maya nodded in agreement with her teammate. "I'm guessing that they have NO idea what is happening, or that reporters are trying to hunt down their whereabouts..."

*****

"Now, wasn't I right about the carnival?" Leo slid his arm protectively around his girlfriend's waist.

"You were," Karone admitted quite happily, her arms wrapped tightly around a plush red lion. "I have never had this much fun in my entire life. On Earth, being a celebrity didn't allow for much fun; couldn't go anywhere without being recognized and chased after."

As they walked out of the carnival gates and down the path that lead to their quarter complex about two blocks away, Karone sighed while remembering her life before Terra Venture, before being a Galaxy Ranger...before she ever met Leo. "I feel free here," she expressed, staring up towards the dark dome sky where an artificial full moon hung. "Even though I'm still trapped in this dome, I feel so free."

They continued to walk in the silence of one another, simply enjoying each other's company.

"Karone?"

"Hmmm?"

"Look ahead."

The blonde woman averted her eyes away from the dome sky to look at the front of their quarter complex, which was still nearly a half block away. The entire street in front of it was crowded with cars, and on the front steps of the building she could see some people holding television cameras and some holding microphones waiting, looking tremendously anxious for something or someone to arrive.

At first, it didn't occur to Karone what those people were doing there or why some many cars were outside their building, but when she did realize why they would be there, it was already too late; the reporters had spotted her and were running towards her and Leo as they approached the quarter complex. "Karone! Karone! Karone!" they screamed out her name in frenzy, as they ran towards her.

She instantly tensed up, clutching her stuffed animal to her chest, literally strangling it. She braced herself closely to Leo's muscular body, shutting her eyes and wanting to be anywhere else but where she was at that moment.

Leo felt her taut body against his own, and instantly enveloped her in his arms, guiding into the building as the reporters crowded around them, following their every step. Throughout the ordeal, he remained stoically silent, yet on the inside his blood boiled over with a deep profound anger.

As they rode up to Deck Four in the elevator with the same reporters, both rangers continued on with their silence; Karone with her face buried into Leo's side, trying her best to hide from the reporters.

Once the elevator opened up to the deck, the couple hastily got out of the small structure and waded their way through the sea of media personnel. Questions came blazing at them left and right, but there was one question that stung them both:

"Are you still engaged to Zhane, Karone?"

When Leo heard that he wanted to lash out and declare that he was Karone's boyfriend.

When Karone heard that she simply wanted to cower into a corner and sob until her tears ran dry.

Swiftly, Leo rushed Karone to the doorway of his quarters and hit the keypad, opening the door and letting them inside the sanctuary. "Thank goodness you guys got back!" Maya exhaled in relief over the sound of the reporters' voices fading away as the door closed behind the two. "Are you alright?"

Walking further into the room, Karone and Leo went their separate ways. Karone edgily made her way over to the large window that opened to a view of the colorful Lost Galaxy, softly sobbing into the lion she still held in her clutches. Leo walked over to his friends sitting around the coffee table, and demanded coldly, "Which one of you told them?"

Mike met his brother's icy glare with sympathetic eyes. "We didn't tell them Leo. It must have slipped out somehow; someone working at the daycare or someone who saw her pregnant, but we never told them anything."

The Red Galaxy Ranger stood before his friends, his body sagging under the tremendous emotional weight that had suddenly been thrown upon him. He was angry and frustrated at the notions of people thinking Karone was still with Zhane; for at least a split second, Leo had actually felt direct anger towards the Silver Astro Ranger, but hurriedly realizing his anger was misguided. He was angry towards those...people outside his front door, pounding and literally drooling for a statement from his girlfriend in her delicate condition. He felt like the media had been stalking them forever, when in reality it had only been a little over ten minutes.

"Then we'll just have to ignore them," Leo finally decided, running a steady hand through his auburn hair. "Until they go away-"

"No."

The five of them spun around to see Karone leaning up against the window, her teary face looking tired and worn and her eyes achingly red. Her voice had been so clear and precise, cutting through Leo's words like a sharpened knife. "That won't work," she replied, staring down at the floor. "You haven't dealt with this like I have; I know what I have to do."

Damon was the first to speak following Karone's declaration, "Then what DO we do?"

"I'll have to issue a press release; I can fix that up tonight," she answered him monotonously, droning on as if she had done it many times before, which she had. "Then, sometime tomorrow, I'll have to arrange a press conference. If I answer all of their questions sooner, they'll leave me alone much faster. Both of those things should get me off the hook; they'll have all the damned juicy gossip they want, and they'll be sure to leave me alone."

The room fell to silence once more, seeing as no one objected to Karone's methods to addressing the media. Though it appeared that no one did, one of them did see a flaw in her plans, and that one was Leo. However, he neglected to mention it as he watched his lover press her body against the large glass window, her hands almost reaching out towards the mixture of stars, longing for the freedom of her heavy shackles.

*****

Part Five

The next morning soon came to light, revealing six tired and worn rangers draped all over the cramped quarters.

Mike lay sleeping, splayed over the soda that sat before the coffee table, half of his body hanging off of it. Maya sat propped up in a chair, her head leaning forward onto her chest. Kai miraculously managed to fall asleep sitting at a kitchen stool, his head bent over and pressed against the kitchen counter. Damon sat at the foot of the front door with his head lolled back against it as he softly snored. Leo slept before the computer database, his cheek leaning against the keyboard and the screen blinking the flashing letters, "MESSAGE SENT."

Karone was the only one who slept fairly comfortably, lying on Leo's bunk. He had moved her there at around midnight, just about when she fell asleep at the keyboard as she finished typing up her press release. He was the one who had been responsible for sending it out.

Their peaceful sleeping demeanors were ones of content and of near innocence to what was happening around them. Those simple faces had yet to know of what was to come in the near future.


Over the next few days following Karone's press release and eventual press conference, the Terra Venture around her morphed into something she had hoped to never see again: Angel Grove.

It wasn't that she didn't love the city, but more it was a place where everybody knew her name and got excited whenever she was in the near vicinity of them. A place where she was a celebrity is every aspect of the word.

Karone didn't want to be a celebrity, of all things to be. She wanted just to be seen and known as some pretty blonde girl walking down the street; normal. The only person she wanted to see her as more than that was Leo.

At first, little things started. She'd be heading home after work and someone would cautiously approach her, asking politely for her autograph. She would simply grit her teeth and comply. Sometimes, a person would stop her and ask her how she was. She would feign a smile and reply, "Fine."

Soon enough though, these little things began to escalate into bigger things. When picking up their children, parents would talk avidly with Karone for no apparent reason other than to have a brush with "stardom". Karone would always oblige them, even when she was thoroughly annoyed. People, mostly women, would stop her in mid-walk asking how her baby was and some would even be bold enough to ask who the father was. The blonde would tell them either, "Fine," or just tell them off entirely.

The stress was certainly mounting up, and she could feel it pulling on every bone and muscle in her body.

Karone didn't know how long she could take it anymore.

*****

Grabbing his jacket off a post nearby, Leo ran out of the barn at the stables and straight into the meadow, easily jumping the rickety fence. He ran faster than he had ever before, taking delight in watching the rather dumb reporters wait anxiously at the front of Terra Venture Stables for Leo to come out and "greet" them. He knew that that wouldn't be happening any time soon.

Leo continued his pace until he reached the grouping of buildings just beyond the stables. There, he slowed down to a walk while heading towards his favorite deli shop.

Entering through the shop's doors, he slid up to the counter and hastily told the man behind the counter his order. "Can I get a pound of potato salad, a half-pound of sauerkraut and three turkeys on rye; two should have swiss cheese and pickles in them too."

"Looking to feed a whole army, eh?"

"Just two," Leo fired back with a joking grin.

As the man went off to prepare his order, Leo couldn't help but laugh pleasantly and quietly to himself. "An army," he scoffed, imagining all of those reporters that were literally chasing after him, following their realizations that he was simply more to Karone than just a friend...as any other normal person could have probably told them!

For maybe the last few days, the media had finally began to look at Leo as more than just Karone's friend - he, after all, was always with her. The only thing Leo could think was that it was about high time that they started questioning, bugging and annoying him to no end; he could take it, but he wasn't sure that Karone could anymore. Her mental health and physical health already were strained with her being five months pregnant.

His train of thought was interrupted when the man came back with Leo's completed order. "You'd better be careful out there," the man grinned as Leo took the bag of food from his hands and continued to leave the store.

Turning back to face the counter one last time, he nodded, "I will; thanks."

As he exited the deli, Leo began to walk back towards the stables. This time around though, he didn't stop at the stables...he headed straight into the park.

Eventually, the Red Ranger came upon a group of children playing dodgeball in a clearing among a patch of large, cascading oak trees. Nearby, he could see a lovely blonde woman sitting on a bench, supervising the kids while they played.

Hoping he wouldn't be recognized by the kids, Leo tried being silent and stealthy, sneaking around them...least to say, he didn't succeed as well as he had hoped.

"LEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!"

Little bodies slammed straight into him, causing him to fall backwards into the grass while still clutching his jacket and the bag of newly-prepared food. "I SURRENDER!" he shouted through the giggle pile of children.

Even as he did, the boys and girls didn't let him up from the ground. Leo could hear a new voice coalescing with the high-pitched laughter: a solid and somewhat sensuous chortle just barely touching his ears. "I think you guys better let him up before you make him a pancake," Karone's voice suggested gently over and beyond the happy noise.

Once the children retreated off of his body, Leo stood up and shook himself trying to get rid of all the grass that had stuck to him. "I don't think I've been able to laugh like that for a long time," she remarked, turning her gaze to where the kids had returned to their game of dodgeball.

"Compliment or insult?"

"Compliment." The Pink Ranger faced him with her hands resting against her belly and a gentle smile lighting her face as well as her dreary blue eyes. "How come you're here right now? Don't you have work for another hour or two?"

"I did," he answered with a grin. "I got permission to sneak out and blow it off though; my boss had some sympathy for me, unlike those reporters."

Karone's face puckered into a dirty pout at the mention of the media. "They're malicious hounds. They just don't know when to quit, and I don't think they ever will," she spat bitterly, but quickly changed moods as she eyed the still-intact bag of food hanging from Leo's hand. "You brought food?" she chirped giddily.

"I sure did," Leo winked, a wave of delight washing over him as he watched his girlfriend light up in such glee at the prospect of food. Watching her light up over anything brought him utter happiness. "All for you; I know how these kids can just totally run you down and leave you starving."

"You make them sound as bad as those reporters," she joked lightly. She smiled appreciatively and leaned closer to him, giving him a small kiss. "Thank you," she whispered softly. She was about to pull away, but Leo brought her back into his arms and gently pressed his lips to hers once more, slowly developing it further into a passionate kiss.

"EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!"

The two abruptly broke their kiss and glanced towards the kids who were all standing still and staring at the couple like they had done some bad voodoo thing. "Gross!" one of the little boys shouted. "She could have cooties!"

Leo and Karone instantaneously burst out laughing, still holding one another in each other's arms. "Cooties..." Karone breathed through her peals of laughter.

Soon enough though, the children found something else to do with their newfound discovery. "Leo and Karone, sitting in a tree...K-I-S-S-I-N-G! First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage!" they chanted in unison, breaking out into a fit of giggles.

"Hey!" Karone cried, her laughter slowing. "Why don't you all go back to playing and leave us alone!"

They giggled some more when Karone yelled at them, but quickly and eagerly returned to their game, no longer fascinated by the two older people.

"You know," Leo whispered into her ear as he nuzzled at it, his arms wrapped around her mid-section, "I think they have it backwards."

"Have what backwards?" she murmured softly, keeping an eye out on her charges.

He slowly drew away from her, grinning. "The song; you know, "...first comes love, then comes marriage"," he mimicked the shrill singing voices of the children, causing her to stifle a laugh. "For us it was, "first comes the baby, then comes love, and later on comes marriage"..."

Karone nodded in acknowledgement, gently smiling. She could look back on the events that had taken place before and smile, thinking about how good things were between her and Leo at that moment. She was madly in love with Leo and even those stupid reporters couldn't ruin that for her; besides, she was waiting for the perfect moment to tell Leo her good news...

Poking her side gently, Leo woke her from her reverie of thoughts. "You still hungry?" he asked teasingly, though they both already knew the answer to that very question.

"Very," she replied, grabbing for the bag of food but missing entirely once Leo hid it from her. "Hey! What're you doing?" she whined, trying to get at the food behind his back.

"One word: picnic," he winked, kissing her on the cheek. "How about leaving work a little early to join me in a peaceful paradise?"

*****

"Mmmmmm..." Karone moaned quite hungrily, swallowing down the last of her third turkey sandwich. "This is wonderful, Leo," she sighed pleasantly, lying down against Leo's body.

"For you it is," Leo grinned, brushing his fingers through her hair. "For me it isn't; you make me hungry!"

Karone chuckled and leaned her head backwards to stare at an upside down Leo. "Hungry for what?" she whispered sensually, sliding her hand up underneath his shirt.

He moaned at her touch, but answered, "I'm hungry for food." He gave her a sly smile. "The food I need, the other stuff I can get later."

Hitting him on the arm, the blonde slowly moved to sit up as Leo followed her lead. "Want some potato salad?" she asked, picking up a half-empty carton and poking at its contents with her fork.

"Yes, please," he requested in a soft, playful voice, his arms slipping around her as she fed him some of the salad stuck to her fork. She then took a forkful of the potato salad for herself and munched away.

After they both finished the rest of the potato salad together, Karone spoke up timidly, "Leo?"

"Hmm?" he acknowledged, removing his lips from her neck and looking at her with his chin settled against her shoulder.

"You remember how I had to go to the MegaShip this morning to do my monthly scan on how the baby is doing?"

"Yes..."

"Well, I went to it today and...Alpha found something on the scans."

"What? Is something wrong with the baby?"

"No, no. The babies are fine," Karone grinned gently, anticipating Leo's reaction. A few moments later she was rewarded.

Crawling around to sit facing his girlfriend, the Red Ranger stared at her, his visage expressing complete bewilderment. "What do you mean, "babies"?"

Her grin became an knowing smile that parted her lips and reached her eyes. Placing her hand against his cheek, her thumb stroked against his lips. "Leo, I'm having..." Karone was abruptly cut off by the tone of their communicators beeping.

Resentfully, Leo tore his attention away from the woman he loved to his communicator that sat strapped obediently to his wrist. "Leo here," he replied the call.

"Little bro, you and Karone better get down her to GSA Square! Deviot brought along some kind of monster and he's kidnapping people!" Mike's frantic voice rang through the device.

Leo was already standing up and nearly ready to morph, when he quickly told Mike, "We'll be there in a minute! Hang on!"

Just as he was about to morph, he realized that Karone wasn't standing at his side, but still sitting down on he ground and playing absently with a blade of grass. "Karone, aren't you coming?" he questioned her, kneeling down beside her quickly and brushing her hair away from her face.

She lifted her eyes from the piece of grass to meet Leo's gaze with a soft smile. "No," she declared quite clearly. "I really don't feel up to fighting; I wouldn't do you guys any good."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm positive, Leo," she assured him, letting him know her decision was final. "Go on; the others need you."

Unlike the first time she demanded to fight while being pregnant, Leo hesitated in leaving her behind. After a moment's thought, he reassured himself that it was for the best and stood up. "Go Galactic!"

He morphed and teleported away, leaving Karone to stare at where he had once stood, faintly wishing he had stayed behind with her.

*****

"SIYAH!" Leo pounded a roundhouse straight into the chest of a swabbie as he struggled to save the citizens of Terra Venture from the clutches of Nabotron.

Running from the swabbies and towards the crowd of people cowering on the ground scared or injured, Leo unsheathed his sword, shouting as he jumped into the air at Nabotron, "FIRE POWER!"

The Red Galaxy Ranger's sword lit up with a fiery blaze from hilt to tip while his sword neatly made a slash at the large monster. Pulling his sword away, he was surprised when all that was remnant of his attack was barely a singe on its armor. Almost immediately, Nabotron backhanded Leo into the crowd of people like a little housefly.

Gasps were echoed as Leo pulled himself up from the ground, holding his side and grunting. "I WON'T let you take these people!" he declared quite stubbornly.

"Neither will I!" Damon's voice rang from somewhere behind Leo. He turned around to see the Green Ranger fast approaching Nabotron, Quasar Saber out and ready to strike at will.

Joining in with Damon on his flight of attack, Leo grabbed his Quasar Saber off the ground where it lay beside him and charged at the monster. Damon got in the first hit, slashing at Nabotron's right side, while Leo got into the second hit, slashing at Nabotron's left side. Both got in good and solid hits on the monster, but didn't wound it critically, allowing Nabotron to blast them back into a cement wall that had been sheltering the scared and trapped citizens. The two fell to the ground, knocked out by the sheer force that they hit the wall with.

Nabotron took a second to lick his wounds, then thrust his hand out in front of him, an energy net flying from his hands and expanding over his prisoners, including both the Red and Green Rangers.

Kai watched in horror, held back swabbies, as the energy net flickered for a few moments and then disappeared, taking with it the many screaming people and the unconscious Leo and Damon. "NO!" he cried out, his hands trying to reach for the spot where they had vanished from, even though it was way far out of his reach.

He could faintly hear Mike and Maya's helpless shouts over the laughter of Deviot and Nabotron. Propelled with a newfound purpose, Kai hastily disposed of the swabbies that had been holding him and ran towards Deviot. "Where did they go?!" he screamed, his sword held at ready as he ran.

"I truly don't know..." Deviot mocked him, his hand placed to his chin. "But I'm sure I'll find them all for you in no time at all."

With his words, he flickered away and left, Nabotron and the swabbies diligently following their superior.

The Blue Ranger stopped dead in his tracks, staring somewhat angrily at the spot where they had once stood. "What are we going to tell Karone?" Maya's faint voice asked unsurely, as she and Mike approached Kai.

"What can we tell her?" Mike whispered quietly. "There's nothing but the truth to tell her. It's not like we can say Leo decided to go on a vacation."

"We've got to get them back," Kai stated fiercely, his gloved hand forming a tight fist as his side. "We've got to get Leo and Damon back before they start suspecting." He nudged hid head slightly towards their right, near the bare edges of GSA Square.

The two rangers glanced over to their right for a split second to see an endless flow of cars starting to pull up and stop, reporters and camera people flowing out of them and jogging over to where the three of them stood talking.

Mike bowed his head a touch, heaving a great sigh. "We'd better get going from here," he spoke up, saying what they already knew mentally.

Agreeing with him, Kai and Maya dissolved into their respective blue and yellow teleportation lights while Mike followed in a streak of black.

*****

"GET UP!" A voice screamed at Leo, as he grunted in pain from the strong kick he had received prior to the yelling. He turned his face to look up into the darkness and saw many silhouettes flanking either side of him.

A cold arm lifted him from the hard ground and threw him into a group of waiting swabbies, who held Leo's arms tightly. "Rise and shine, Red Ranger," the ice malice of Deviot's voice entered his hearing. "It's time for you to go on a little journey..."

His mind still clouded with confusion, Leo glanced to his right where Damon was also held somewhat against his will as they were dragged away from the sounds of metal clanging and clinking.

*****

Karone leaned against a tree, one hand resting on her stomach and the other one held out before her, fingers dancing while they manipulated a floating flower which kept her fairly occupied as she waited for Leo's return from battle.

The sanctuary of her peace was broken when the doors slid open to the Simudeck and part of the simulation disappeared, revealing the front part of the room where the controls were located. "Hmm?" She whipped her head around to glance at the door, her attention taken away from the small flower allowing it to gracefully descend towards the grass.

Kai, Mike and Maya all entered the Simudeck, helmets off and grave looks of concern plastered all over their faces. She watched them carefully, fascinated by the fact that she knew what they were going to say even before they said it; it just seemed so painfully obvious to her, with their downcast expressions.

"Something happened to Leo and Damon, didn't it?"

Startled by Karone's declaration, but not about to deny her the truth, Mike nodded. "Damon and Leo got captured by Nabotron; he took away some bystanders too."

Almost with a mechanical coldness, Karone solemnly stood up from where she sat and walked across the Simudeck, over to the controls, turning off the serene scene. Her three friends watched her in a dead silence as she left the room and walked down the corridor and out of their line of sight.

"Do you think she'll be okay?" Maya looked at her two teammates.

"She has to be," Kai offered apologetically. "We need all the help we can get to find Damon and Leo."

*****

Karone continued on her path down the corridor until she reached the Megalift. She then entered the Megalift and proceeded down to another deck. Once there, the blonde exited the small moving room and walked among the hall of cold gray doorways.

She finally stopped herself before one of the doors.

Gently, she ran her hand over the worn keypad belonging to the door, recalling the many times when she only had to push one simply key to enter the room; when the room was once partly hers to call home.

After her still moment, Karone keyed in a chain of numbers into the keypad, allowing the long locked door to slide open before her and let her into the domain she previously was blissfully happy to call hers and Zhane's.

*****

"Put me down this instant!"

"And why should I?"

"Because I said so!"

The door to their quarters slid open and a fidgeting Karone in Zhane's arms entered the room. "Do I have to?" Zhane whined playfully.

"YES!" The twenty-one old woman feigned seriousness for the moment, and then burst into laughter at the puppy-dog pout Zhane gave her in retort to her protest. "Oh, come on, Zhane! Let me down!"

With a humorous reluctance, he gave into her demands and threw her onto the nearby bed. "Better?" He simply winked mischievously.

She rolled her eyes and shook her head causing her long blonde hair to wave side to side. "Not exactly what I had in mind," she responded with a slight grin. "It'll have to do, I guess."

"You guess?" Zhane looked at her appalled, his hand held to his chest. "How can you say, "I guess"?"

She laughed, winking and saying, "I GUESS because I CAN!"

The blond man feigned another horrified expression and then jumped onto the bed, grabbing her in his arms once more. Their laughter continued, but began to wind down as they relaxed on the bed and into each other.

For an instant, all was still until Zhane gradually made the first move and kissed Karone. She quickly reacted to him, savoring the kiss and loosing herself in him...

*****

The quarters had pretty much remained the same since the had left it; since the last time she saw it.

The bed was crisply made, maybe a few wrinkles here and there on the gray sheets. Draped on the chairs were a few of Zhane's old clothes and few of her own, as they had decided before they left, to leave a few things they felt that they wouldn't need.

Karone moved to pick up a ragged-looking purple robe off of one of the chairs and pulled it in close to her chest like an old friend that she had dearly missed. Its softness against her skin and how it kept her warm, she would never forget.

It was a piece of memorabilia from her past.

And when she accepted that, the many memories that had hurt to recall came rushing back - one in particular.

*****

"Zhane?" Karone whispered lightly, almost sheepish that she had brought the subject up even after she knew his reaction from the last time. "Sit down, Zhane. Please...we need to talk this out."

Pacing the length of their bedroom over and over, he stopped for a split second to stare at his fiancée, a furious expression cast upon him. "We talked this out last time you brought it up, Karone, and I distinctly remember me not agreeing with it," he told her quite stubbornly, returning to his unnerving pacing.

She watched him angrily pace from the spot where she sat on their bed. She knew he had every right to be angry; he was sick of being in the public eye. Five years of having every move recorded, examined and analyzed in every way possible had turned him into somewhat of a homebody. Their celebrity status had affected them all, but no one more than Zhane. Over the years, the weight and pressure matured him, eroding away his fun and rather childish demeanor that hadn't been so easily washed away by the many wars he fought at a young age even. It was that old Zhane that Karone had come to love. He was still cocky and sarcastic as ever, but to Karone it wasn't the same and she knew that it probably wouldn't ever.

It had been the old Zhane who had helped her become the fun-loving, stubborn and compassionate person she had turned out to be. The new Zhane simply was too much of a contrast. The dynamic was lost; it just didn't work anymore.

Gathering her courage, Karone stood up and blocked Zhane's path of pace. Slowly, she began to slide the golden band off of her left hand, waiting for him to stop before her. He eventually did.

His eyes, which had softened some from the last time he had glanced at her, gazed on the blonde woman in confusion. "Here, Zhane," she gently told him, taking his hand and opening his palm up to her. She slipped her engagement ring into it and then forced his palm back into a fist around the piece of jewelry. "You have your own path, and now I have mine. We're different now; it's time to let go of the past and go forward."

"What are you doing?" Zhane looked truly horrified this time around, nearly frightened by Karone's sudden and abrupt course of actions. He tried to shove the ring back into her hands, but she refused it.

She hugged him tightly and kissed his cheek. "We've changed, Zhane. As much as I've tried to live and love that change, I can no longer. I need to go and set myself free. I need to fix my wrongs, and you need to find yourself again."

With her solemn words, Karone began to pack her bare essentials into a small duffel bag. Zhane begged and pleased with her, but with all the strength she had within her, she denied him and then began to leave the house itself. As she shut the door behind her for the last time, Zhane's words echoed into her hearing.

"I love you..."

*****

Karone sat down at the edge of the bed, frowning faintly as she remembered the heart-breaking memory of when she had to decide what was best for her and Zhane. She closed her eyes once more, lying back while placing a soft hand to her belly. She sighed.

"...but I don't love you."

*****

Leo slowly awoke, pain shooting through his sides and his arms. He twisted his body side-to-side, more aware, realizing that he was leaning against something; actually more like someone. "You finally awake, Leo?" the familiar voice of Damon ran in his ears.

"Mmmm...this is what being awake feels like?" Leo moaned lowly, his eyes tearing open to have the bright, burning sun shining straight into them. "I think I'll go back to sleeping then."

Still somewhat tired and his thoughts blurry, the weakened Red Ranger began to shut his eyes, but Damon nudged him hard in the small of his back causing him to let out a grumbled yelp. "Stay awake," the Green Ranger commanded. "Deviot left us out here in the sun. They'll be coming back at sunset to destroy us."

Taking in Damon's words, Leo looked up to see his hands held in metal cuffs dangling from a chain attached to a wooden pole structure that literally made it seem like they were both hanging down from it. Looking down, he finally realized that he was demorphed, back to wearing his torn khakis and dirtied red shirt. He could feel the bruises stinging on the bare parts of his body. "Where are all the other people?"

"Deviot mentioned that they had been taken to the "slave camps"."

"It all makes sense now," Leo sighed, his mind clearing and allowing him a bit of clarity. "He was attacking Terra Venture so he could kidnap people to work in the slave camps."

"Mmm-hmmm..."

They both were quiet for awhile considering the position they were in. "No one knows where we are," Leo mumbled regretfully, adjusting his wrists in the shackles. "Who knows what could happen..."

Damon suddenly began to laugh, the sun continuing to beat down upon both of them. "What the hell are you laughing at?!" Leo cried in frustration.

"The fact that you're always in trouble!" Damon shot back jokingly. "When I first met you, you were a stowaway on Terra Venture!"

Recalling that time in his life, Leo couldn't help but join in on the laughter. "I guess you're right: but I couldn't help it. I didn't want to get left behind when everyone else went on the adventure of a lifetime..."

*****

Hours later as the two captured Power Rangers chattered away their last few good moments with one another while recalling their past battles and experiences, a silence hushed them. Their recollection had led them to the point where Leo had been taken by Trakeena for those three days, one of which Leo wished he didn't remember so vividly.

"What happened with you and Trakeena?"

Leo was startled by Damon's question, not so much by the fact that he wanted to know, but more because of the fact that his friend had even tried to bring up the subject. That didn't cause Leo to hesitate with his answer though. If anything, it made the young man more willing to speak up about it, now that he could safely say that he had put most of it behind him with the help of Karone.

"She raped me." The words echoed between the two rangers. "I was under a spell and she raped me."

*****

Leo rose from the slumber, following his body beating, feeling sore all over. He glanced left and right, trying to distinguish whether Trakeena was still in the room and simply hiding in the darkness or she had left the room entirely. It appeared she had done the latter, of which he was grateful for.

Relieved, he rolled onto his stomach and crawled beneath the covers of the bed. At that moment he wouldn't have cared if a skunk had slept in the same bed, nonetheless Trakeena, for he was simply blank. He thought nothing, he just acted and reacted; a sort of effect of the spell she had put over him.

It was like he was being forced to relive the same nightmare over and over again within his mind. Every searing touch and caress he remembered - etched forever into his memories - when Leo would have preferred to forget it all.

Suddenly, he heard footsteps approaching the room and quickly the Red Ranger fell into a feigned sleep. He heard the door to the bedroom open and someone enter. "We had a deal, Trakeena!" Leo barely registered the surprisingly angry voice as belonging to Villamax, Trakeena's new general.

Another pair of footsteps also entered and closed the door; he figured it was Trakeena. "We do have a deal, Villamax, and it still does stand," she paused, and Leo heard footsteps approach him. Long nails gently dragged down his bare back, while Trakeena began to speak once more. "Jealousy befits you although; you wear it well."

"You seduced this ranger last night."

"No; I used him." Leo cringed slightly, but hoped Trakeena wouldn't notice. He could now feel the weight of her sitting down on the bed beside his body. "Variety DOES do a body good, Villamax. You should know that better than I." Her hands slinked up into his hair, her fingers running through it.

The heavy and frustrated footsteps of Villamax stomped to the door and he left, the door slamming shut behind him. Leo almost dreaded the general's leaving because his leaving allowed Trakeena to call on him once again.

And call on him she did.

*****

"I thought that that was the worst thing that could ever happen to me as a ranger," Leo sighed heavily, his memories and mind returning to the present. "But when the Psycho Rangers came and then Kendrix died, I realized that it wasn't the worst thing."

Damon nodded solemnly. "At least we know Kendrix is in a good place," he assured, recalling the very moment they saw Kendrix's spirit float away from the site of her death. "Kendrix picked the perfect person to take her place as Pink Ranger though. Karone fits right in."

"She does," Leo smiled gently, proud of his girlfriend. "Sometimes I feel like I owe Kendrix for helping me and Karone get together. I just wish she didn't have to die to help us."

"You and Karone were made for each other; you guys have got the chemistry goin' on," Damon paused for a minute, "but you and Kendrix had dynamic. You clashed and it worked."

"I used to have feelings for her," Leo admitted, finally telling someone his secret. "I remember when I first ran into Kendrix and how I felt about her; it killed me when she died. Then when Karone came along and joined up with us, a whole bunch of new feelings towards her surged in me. I felt like I had betrayed Kendrix, after all the time that I had seen her alive I felt for her, but once she was dead I literally threw her away."

"What made that all change?" his friend asked with a natural curiosity.

"I had a dream about both of them after I got my powers drained out of me by Magnatox. It was eerie, but somehow it helped me more than anything else could have..."

*****

"Guess who?" a cheerful voice called from outside the darkness of his vision.

Leo felt a gleeful grin rise on his face as he recognized the pretty feminine voice. "Kendrix!" he declared, just as a pair of hands flew away from his eyes, allowing him his sight once again.

Looking around himself, he realized that Kendrix and him were in the park near the daycare center where he usually took the kids to go play Hide and Seek in. They were sitting on a bench together, the two of them, relaxing in the midst of the shady trees and the warm sun. "Didn't expect to see me so soon, did ya?" her voice teased melodically, her eyes dancing delightedly.

"No, I didn't," Leo answered frankly, a gigantic smile reaching his blue eyes. He took her by the shoulders and slowly moved towards her, but even before he could get near her lips, another voice cried, "LEO!"

Leo snapped his head up to react to the voice. He saw Karone, standing a couple feet away from Kendrix and him, her beautiful face looking as if right then and there her innocence had been completely shattered. Like a shocked child, she dropped the ball held in her hands and began frantically looking around for a place to find solace. She quickly ran away from the scene and out of Leo's sight.

Suddenly he was torn. His dream woman, the one he had known and felt for the longest, sat beside him. Though she was dead, for that instant she was alive and with him. He had to confess his true feelings for her before she vanished once more into the sanctum of death.

There was also the woman of flesh, the one who had the ability to make him laugh and make him feel because she was still there. She had run off in deep distress. He had never seen her like that before and it simply pained him. He felt the need to run after her and comfort her, to tell her that he also felt something strong and genuine towards her; to hope that she could possibly return those feelings even after what she had witnessed almost happen between him and his dream woman.

"Go to her," Kendrix whispered, cutting through his disorienting thoughts. Leo turned to face her once more and saw that she no longer possessed the solid human body that she had once before. She was now translucent and ghost-like in her appearance.

Kendrix's hand "brushed" the side of Leo's cheek, a comforting motion. "Go to her," she urged him once more. "She is alive. She is there for you to love. You can't live through your life, Leo, loving someone you will never have. You can have her; don't loose your chance, or her..."

*****

Damon smiled softly as he listened to Leo finished recounting the dream. "We all owe Kendrix a lot," he stated, licking his cracked lips with his tongue. "She gave her life for all of ours."

Leo also smiled a sweet smile. "She did. I'll never forget what she's done for me and I doubt Kendrix will let me forget..."

*****

Karone stood at the periphery of the Astro MegaShip's bridge, watching Kai, Maya and Mike search for Leo and Damon with the help of Alpha. As she watched them scurry about, she felt somewhat alienated from the group for an odd reason; like she didn't belong there.

She wanted to help. Beyond anything Karone badly wanted to help them find Damon and Leo. Leo was her boyfriend and Damon was a close friend. But for the first time in her life, Karone felt useless and more alone than she had ever been before.

"I think I found them!" Alpha cried out, while standing in front of a screen, his hands moving upon the controls.

"Where?" The question flew from Karone's lips, spreading its wings and gliding into the air.

Maya, Kai and Mike looked at the blonde woman, startled as they all had become accustomed to her silence. The four of them together walked over to where Alpha stood, and gazed up at the map on the screen. "Here," the robot reported, his metallic finger pointing towards a planet that was blinking red on the screen.

"We'll go find them," Kai piped up through the calm that had fallen over them awkwardly, motioning to only Maya and himself. He seemed to almost stare at Karone, seeking her permission or blessing - whichever she was willing to give.

The blonde nodded mutely, and the Blue and Yellow Galaxy Rangers ran off of the bridge towards the Glider Bay, Alpha practically toddling after them in his own fashion.

Mike and Karone solely remained, the oldest members of the Power Ranger team who carried the most responsibility, but who also had the strongest and deepest connections to the Red Ranger. One being a brother and the other one being a lover.

"Karone, you should go."

Mike's voice resounded in her mind. Perhaps the backing of someone was all she had needed to take the initiative to get Leo back, because after a still moment, a light lit Karone's eyes; one of knowing and one of hope. She quickly grabbed Mike and hugged him dearly, hastily hurrying off to do what she had to.

*****

"Well, well, Rangers; how are you feeling now that it's sunset?"

Deviot's voice ran hideously sweet in the men's ears, causing them to wince. Deviot had been the last person both of them had been hoping to see, and now most likely he was going to be the last person they ever saw, period.

"I feel good," Leo remarked sarcastically, pressing his cracked lips together. He quickly nudged Damon in the small of his back to provoke a response to the question from his partner.

The older man grunted, then chimed, "I'm just peachy keen!"

"Hush up with all these stupid word games!" another harsh voice snapped from beyond them all.

Leo looked up into the direction of the sun to see the silhouette of a rather bulky-looking monster, flanked by swabbies. The monster moved downwards towards the two hanging Galaxy Rangers in the very middle of the sparse quarry. "May I introduce, the great and all powerful Captain Mutiny!" Deviot announced, motioning almost gracefully towards the larger monster that now nearly stood beside him; it would have been completely graceful had it not been for the fact that it was terribly evident Deviot was simply sucking up to his "superior".

"Let us get this over and done with," Captain Mutiny heaved, brushing off Deviot's grandiose presentation with a mere scoff. He slowly took to his belt and unsheathed his sword. "Who wants to go first?" the villain chuckled devilishly, playing with his prisoners.

"I will!" Leo snapped out, immediately spinning around in the chains so that he was standing before the tip of Captain Mutiny's sword and the Green Ranger wasn't.

Damon was completely taken aback by his teammate's actions. Leo had so much to live for than he did. He had his brother, Karone and their baby, while Damon had nothing. He quickly forced Leo to switch positions with him, so that now Damon stood before Mutiny's sword. "No! I'll go first!" he cried out in protest, splaying him body before the monster to slice and dice.

Almost instinctively, Leo tried to shove his way back into being first to die, but Damon pushed back and so began their fight for who was to die first. Deviot and Captain Mutiny found it amusing for the first few seconds, then tired of it fast. "QUIET!" Captain Mutiny shouted at them in a growling manner. "Your fight is noble, but it is also stupid! You can't stall for time!" The monster began to raise his sword high in the air at Damon. "You will die NOW!"

Before Captain Mutiny could plunge his rather large sword through Damon, a round of laser fire fell upon him causing him to stumble backwards into Deviot, who caught him. "What was that?!" he huffed, glancing up into the rouge-colored sky.

Everyone's attention darted up to the sky to see two Jet Jammers belonging to the Blue and Yellow Rangers fire another volley of laser fire at the monsters. "Blast 'em out the sky!" Mutiny cried out in anguish as his plans were thwarted once more.

Deviot aimed the mounted blaster on his arm up at the two rangers, but Maya and Kai both easily maneuvered around and through his shots. Maya fired upon the group of monsters once more, causing them to back away from where Leo and Damon were held in their chains. She then swiftly dove in to where her two teammates were held, and with her Quasar Saber, cut the chains, freeing them.

"Go Galactic!"

*****

After flying the MegaShip to the planet where Leo and Damon were held and placing the ship into a concealed orbit around the planet's only moon, Karone teleported to the surface.

Hiking through the rocky hilly area around one of the many concentrated slave camps that had shown up on the MegaShip scanners, rapidly caused Karone to tire. She stumbled over the little rocks and nearly fell forward onto her stomach after tripping on the roots of a plant. Fortunately, she caught herself with her hands in time and rolled over onto her back in the dirt.

Karone held in a choked sob as she lay there on the ground, the setting sun still blazing hot above her. "I should have let Mike come with me," she berated herself gently, brushing the stray hairs from her bun out of her face.

As she said that though, she knew that as much as she may have needed Mike's help, she couldn't take it. Not now. She had to do something on her own, just to prove to herself that she was still strong. That she could take the crap and not run away from it, like she had been doing the previous two weeks.

With all of her strength, Karone slowly pushed herself off of the ground and into a standing position once more. Placing her hands at the small of her back, she stretched for a moment and looked ahead at the path before her.

Nothing but dirt and a somewhat steep decline.

Removing one of her hands from her waist, Karone let her eyes fall upon her morpher as she hesitated on whether to morph or not. That morning Alpha had warned her not to morph anymore because now that she was in the middle of her second trimester, the powers might have some painful affects on her body; while they would not be life-threatening to her or her unborn children, they would still be very painful. "There's not much other choice," she murmured to herself, caressing the morpher lightly with her fingers. "I need the stamina that the powers provide."

She debated herself on the move for a few more moments before deciding that she HAD to morph in order to continue. Reaching her hand out in front of her, Karone shouted, "Go Galactic!"

The morph was quick and painless, but as soon as Karone started to run down the hill, an enveloping pain overcame her and she fell to the ground with a sharp yelp, tumbling downwards into a group of bushes. Biting her lips furiously, she tried to overcome the sharp stabbing pains and gradually stood up once more. Wave after wave of the powerful feeling washed over her body, touching every single nerve, but she managed to endure it and eventually become used to it.

Mentally blocking out most if not all the pain, partly with her magic and partly with her own will, Karone began to trot down the hill once more until she reached a cliff drop overlooking the slave camp. She nearly gasped at the conditions. In her time as Astronema, she had never witnessed a slave camp up close before, even though after she would decimate a planet she would sell all of her prisoners straight into slavery. Astronema didn't see the point in being surrounded by people so much lower than herself.

People of many different alien races moped around in ragged and dirtied clothing, some carrying large wooden buckets while others dug with tools or even their hands in the rocky dirt. Swabbies surrounded them all, enforcing the labor as other superior monsters wandered around, checking on the swabbies' work. Off to one side, she could see a grouping of holding cells where it looked like the kidnapped citizens from Terra Venture were being held at that moment.

Karone was going move away from her vantage point, which was fairly conspicuous, to closer to those cells where she could try to free the prisoners. She continued to feel pain from her morph and she continued to remember Leo and Damon's precarious capture, but they didn't seem to take as much priority in her mind as before; no matter how much it hurt or how much she loved Leo. She wanted to free those people; no one should have to experience or even be forced to witness such an inhumane thing as slavery was.

Just as she tried to move away though, a man who had been working in the quarry looked up and saw her in her eye-catching pink uniform. "Help us!" he cried up towards her as if she were his savior. "HELP US! PLEASE!"

Horrified, the Pink Ranger became completely frightened and her mental will fell, allowing the full rush of pain consume her once more. She withered to the ground, lying on her side, moaning loudly.

Karone was so helpless in her position that she barely noticed when a large monster appeared on the cliff with her, a large ax held at ready in his hands as he approached her.

Luckily for the Pink Ranger, she managed to divert her attention away from the pain and noticed the long shadow that the monster was casting beside her. "No..." she grunted fiercely, pushing herself up from the ledge and slowly unsheathing her Quasar Saber.

Barbarax, the monster, simply chuckled at Karone's feeble attempt to defend herself. "You think you can take me, Girl? A small delicate thing like you?"

"YES!" she screamed, releasing her taut voice which had struggled not to cry out in pain for the last ten minutes. Without a mental thought to what she was doing, Karone ran at Barbarax; all of her weaknesses and strengths flowing through her body, becoming adrenaline.

First she stabbed at him furiously with her saber, catching him completely off-guard and knocking him to the ground. Taking his ax away from him, she proceeded to him beat him with it viciously; she would have left bruises if he had not been a monster. When she had had enough of the ax, she threw it aside and continued to kick and punch at the monster.

Karone's pent up anger and hatred flowed through her veins, finally allowed to run free as she took it all out on Barbarax. She was angry with Leo for leaving her when she needed him. She held a deep hatred towards the reporters on Terra Venture. She felt envy and disgust for Kendrix for leaving her with the Pink Ranger powers. She resented Zhane for becoming weak, causing her to feign strength that she had never possessed. She hated the Astro Rangers for taking her away from the familiar and placing her into the unknown. She loathed Dark Specter and Ecliptor for molding her into an evil woman. She despised Darkonda for many things. She was angry with Andros for letting her get kidnapped. Lastly, Karone hated herself for allowing her a life so filled with hate.

Karone suddenly stopped punching and hitting the fairly frightened Barbarax, collapsing to the ground. She began to sob terribly and the sharp throbbing returned with a vengeance, causing her to forcefully demorph. As she lay there, sobs wracking her body as well as pain, Barbarax was about to approach her once more, but then abruptly looked up and ran away from the site.

Confusion at the monster's actions barely registered in her mind when her teammates appeared out of nowhere, all five of them fully morphed. A pair of arms scooped up her trembling body from the dirt, and in a quiet hush, all of them teleported from the cliff; little wet spots in the dust the only reminder of what had just taken place there.

*****

"Karone, where are we going?"

As they entered the Megalift from where they had just been in the Medical Bay for the last twenty minutes, Karone steadied herself against Leo. "We're going to my past," she said cryptically in a hoarse voice, still somewhat weak and unbalanced.

"Are you sure you're alright?" he questioned carefully. When they rescued, if you could call it that, Karone from Barbarax, they took her straight to the Medical Bay and had Alpha immediately check her out. Turned out that she had been perfectly fine, but Leo was still a bit wary about that.

The blonde woman nodded softly just as the doors opened up to the deck. She walked straight up to her former residence, her boyfriend following at her heels. Punching the code into the keypad, the doors slid open again and the couple entered the quarters.

When the doors shut behind Leo, Karone spun around and faced him with a fake smile, announcing, "Welcome to the quarters I once shared with Zhane!"

Bewildered and stunned by what she was revealing to him, the Red Ranger absorbed his surroundings and didn't notice when Karone lifted an empty box above her head and flung it into the wall. As soon as she did that, the anger and hurt pulsed through her once more and she tried to lift up one of the metal chairs.

"KARONE!" Leo cried frantically, wrapping his arms around her from behind and separating her from the chair. "What the hell are you trying to do to yourself?!"

"Leave me alone!" she growled ferociously, trying to wiggle out of his arms. "JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!"

"NO!" he barked back, struggling as he tugged her away from the furniture. "I won't let you hurt yourself!" As he backed away, he didn't see the bed standing directly behind him and Leo ended up tripping over it, falling onto the bed with a harassed Karone.

She quickly found a way to flip over so that she was on top of Leo's body, punching and hitting him while she had begun to sob. "You...you...you..." she voiced, hiccupping through her tears.

Wincing at the hurt being inflicted upon him, Leo grabbed Karone by her wrists, stopping her in the midst of her madness. His deep blue eyes peered up into her blurry blue ones, searching. "Karone," he whispered, "please tell what I did..."

"You, left me!" She tried to remove her wrists from his grip, but found that she simply didn't have the will to fight against him anymore. "I, needed you!"

Leo remained silent as Karone calmed down, her hiccups echoing through the quarters. He then began to laugh, a grin parting his solemn features. "What?" Karone queried innocently, hiccupping again.

"Your hiccups," he informed through his laughter, letting go of her wrists.

She hiccupped once more involuntarily and she too started to laugh.

Their laughter coalesced merrily, banishing the tears and hate that had filled Karone and the worry that had filled Leo. The happy music rang throughout, and as it dissolved gradually, she whispered, "I'm having triplets, Leo."

Leo's eyes widened with a true glee and he laughed once more, bringing her down to him. She laughed with him until his mouth pressed against hers, silencing them both with a passionate kiss.

*****

Clothes both old and new were laying about the room on various pieces of furniture as Karone woke up happily from her sleep hours later. Lying beneath the covers of the bed, she turned onto her side to gaze at the man with her, a soft smile touching her lips.

Leo slept peacefully, his face that of a quiet warrior resting after a hard-fought battle. His hand rested on his bare chest and she gently lifted it, bringing his fingertips to her lips and lightly kissing them. "Mmmmm..." He stirred from his sleep at the sensual touches and slowly opened his eyes. Turning onto his side, he faced Karone and stroked her cheek with his free hand. "Hello," he grinned through his happy sleep.

"Hello," she returned, now kissing at his palm as Leo moaned quietly. "Tired?"

"Never too tired to be with you," he answered playfully, his hand slipping away from her mouth and down her side. "Do you feel better?"

Karone nodded with a heavy sigh. "I still ache though. All that anger, I've never felt that way before. When I was beating Barbarax up...I don't know what to say other than it just felt right. Something in me must've been triggered."

"I still can't believe you beat up Barbarax when you were in so much pain!" Leo snickered slightly. "You should've seen the look on his face."

"I saw," she acknowledged, propping her head up with her arm. "I just never realized how much anger and resentment I possessed within me. When you're evil you're taught to suppress most of it; Ecliptor always said anger was a weakness an evil princess couldn't afford. When I was good I was told to suppress it because it wasn't worth the trouble it caused."

Leo's eyes remained on her as she spoke deeply of her experiences.

"But when I let it all out on Barbarax - that anger - it felt so good! Everything was washed away: the pain, the stress...just everything."

He wrapped his arm around her and hugged her close to him. "That's usually the way things go," he murmured. "It's better to be mad now than to save it for later. The last thing you want is a bank of anger sitting inside of you."

"You sound like you speak from experience."

"Maybe," Leo shrugged absently. "I'm only remembering what happened to the Magna Defender before Mike. He was so full of hate towards Scorpius for killing his son, and it only drove him mad. He didn't care about anyone or anything - just his mission to make Scorpius pay; never did get that done..."

Silence.

"I wanted to destroy it all," Karone muttered, her voice muffled by Leo's chest.

"What?"

"I wanted to destroy all of my past," she declared solemnly, meeting his gaze with her eyes. "I came in here and started throwing things because I wanted it all to go away.

"Astronema has always haunted me, and now, Zhane's starting to too."

Leo ran his hand delicately through Karone's long blonde hair, a soothing gesture. "How is he haunting you?"

"Astronema used to make me feel guilty for all the crimes I'd done as her; I've been over that for awhile now," she paused momentarily, considering Zhane's effects on her. He wasn't there physically of course, but the thoughts of him and how he might think of her were awful enough. "Zhane makes me feel guilty too, but in a different way. Guilty for loving him and then breaking his heart; guilty for sharing my mind, body and soul with him, then taking it all away; guilty for leaving him when he needed me..."

A light went off in Leo's head as he realized what Karone had meant by him leaving her when she had needed him. He pressed his lips into her hair and kissed her head. "You can't blame yourself or feel guilty for any of those things. You had to leave because you needed to," he assured her, smiling warmly down at his girlfriend. "Sometimes, your needs take more priority to what anyone else may want from you."

Karone embraced Leo, her head leaning against his chest as she listened to his steady heartbeat while absorbing his words. Leo was right about Zhane, she had decided. She only hoped that he had managed...

"Unh!" she grunted loudly, rolling away from Leo and onto her back in the bed. She grunted once more as she felt another kick from within her belly.

Leo immediately jumped to her side and clutched her hand in his while he gently squeezed it. "Karone, what is it?"

She chuckled softly to herself and placed Leo's hand on her belly. "Feel," she told him as she received another kick from inside of her.

At first Leo was mystified by what he had felt, but then smiled brightly. "Looks like they're having a party in there," he teased her, giving her a soft peck on the lips.

Karone giggled as Leo buried his mouth into her neck hungrily, cuddling in his embrace and feeling the warm touches wash over her. To be as happy as they were was fairly new compared to the horrors they'd faced together...but there was so much more to come before they could truly be content.

*****

Part Six

"What is this...the FOURTH successful kidnapping Captain Mutiny's gotten away with?" Kai grumbled, his hands tightly fisted around a baseball.

"Unfortunately," Maya answered Kai glumly from her perch on the highest bunk in the guys' quarters. "Fifty people have been taken within the last three months."

"We should have been able to stop them," Mike insisted, staring at the table before him as the battle continuously replayed in his mind. "We've done it before; why should this be any different?"

Damon joined in on the conversation from where he sat before the computer database, searching for information on the newest captured citizens. "Deviot's bein' all weird now. He sends Nabotron to do his dirty work and then he goes into the main GSA building looking for whatever; and we ALL know there's only one thing that monster's after..."

"The Galaxy Book," they all voiced in unison morosely.

"I doubt Deviot is trying to get his hands on that book to get out of the Lost Galaxy," Kai remarked sarcastically, rolling his eyes.

Mike laughed sardonically. "He just wants to see what other powers the Galaxy Book can give him," he paused somewhat absently. "We need a plan to free all those slaves and then we've gotta figure out how to get out of here with that book."

Noticing that one person had failed to speak up during their discussion, Maya jumped down from her seat and chuckled, waving her hand in front of Leo's dazed face. "You're more of a leader than Leo is today, Mike," she teased, snapping Leo out of his daydreaming.

"Hmm?" he replied in surprise, jumping a bit on the low bunk he sat on.

The other four Galaxy Rangers laughed at the Red Ranger's expression. "A little preoccupied are we, little brother?" Mike smirked, throwing the football that was on the coffee table in Leo's direction.

"Only a little," he came back, catching the football with his quick reflexes. "I think I'm going to propose to Karone tonight."

Four pairs of eyes widened, four jaws dropped and four gasps were emitted through the quarters.

"No need to be surprised," Leo cautioned them wryly, eyeing his friends as they instantly recomposed themselves.

Damon began to speak. "It's just that..."

Leo cut him off abruptly. "What? That I'm too young? I just turned twenty and Karone's twenty-four! And if it's about our age difference then..."

"LEO!" Kai shouted, shutting his young friend up as well as calming him down. They could all hear the rambling nervousness in Leo's voice about his decision. "It's not anything like that. It's just that all of us were SURE that Karone would be the one to propose first!"

Leo appeared completely taken aback.

"Except for me, of course," Maya chimed in nicely, glancing around the room at her three other men. "What did we decide on again? If I won..."

"...we would clean your quarters for a month," Kai, Damon and Mike groaned altogether, bringing a grin and wink to Maya's face.

"You guys bet on us?" Leo regained his voice, still somewhat unbelieving. Then again, why shouldn't he have believed them? He would have done the same thing.

Damon grinned knowingly as he came over from the computer database to where the other four were sitting. "We sure did," he confirmed, resisting the slight urge to burst out laughing. "We believe in you two...someone HAD to relent eventually!"

A blush rose in Leo's cheeks and he was suddenly totally entranced by the lacings on the football in his hands. He then glanced up at his friends again, a thought crossing his mind. "Did you guys bet on whether she would say yes or not?"

"What's there TO bet on, Leo?" Mike relayed to his brother in assurance. "It'll be a cold day in July when Karone rejects YOUR proposal."

The Red Ranger couldn't help but grin at the confidence his brother offered him. All he could really hope for was that Mike was right.

"Back to the topic at hand," Leo urged, removing the attention from him back to their main focus: saving those slaves. "We need to free those slaves."

Everyone promptly agreed, their thoughts turning to coming up with some sort of plan. "What we need is a strategy," Kai declared, using common sense and thinking out loud for all of their benefit. He placed the baseball aside and began tinkering with the three-dimensional chess set towering on the table. "We need to find a way to get into the camp without anyone noticing."

Mike leaned back, musing over the Blue Ranger's words. As the silence befell them all, the plan jumped into Mike's head and he blurted it out anxiously. "I've got it," he informed, four pairs of eyes falling on him. "I'll let them capture me; they don't know who I am. They'll take me straight to the slave camp. Once I'm there, I can help them escape and I'll call you guys for back-up."

"What if they realize that you're who you are?" Maya questioned, still skeptical of the idea but not about to object to it either.

"I don't think they'll realize that," Mike assured, taking one of the chess pieces, a pawn, and rolling it over in his fingers. "Besides, I'm gonna give up without a fight if they do..."

*****

"Thanks Alpha!" Karone chirped as she exited the Medical Bay and slowly wobbled down the corridor.

Walking towards the docking port exit so that she could return to Terra Venture, she hummed delightfully to herself. Everything seemed to be going her way now: she was healthy, in love and NOT being hounded by microphones anymore; at least not as much. If her life wasn't bliss, then she didn't know what was.

"I thought I'd find you here," a voice crept up from behind her.

The blonde grinned when she felt a pair of arms gently wrap around her abdomen and someone's warm breath at her ear. "I heard there was another kidnapping early this morning; how many did Mutiny get?" she queried. Karone may not have been an active ranger at the time, but she certainly wanted to be kept up to date on things. Besides, if she got down to business then, the pleasure part would come faster and she was definitely all for that.

"Another ten people," Leo groaned, his breath caressing her neck. "But that's not what I came here to talk to you about. That's actually the last thing I wanted to talk about."

"Really now, you can't just forget you're the leader of the Galaxy Rangers when I'm around. I won't let you," she hassled him playfully, feigning an innocence she most certainly couldn't possess even if she wanted to. "So why ARE you here, Mr. Corbett?"

They continued to stomp down the corridor together, Leo laying delicate kisses down her exposed collarbone causing Karone to moan out softly. "I wanted to talk to you about tonight," he answered seriously, lifting his lips away from her skin. "Care to join me for dinner tonight?"

"Who's cooking?" she demanded straight out.

Leo stopped in his tracks, Karone stopping along with him. "You have no faith in my cooking?" he gasped in mock hurt.

Karone laughed at his remark, patting his hand comfortingly. "Leo, it has been made WELL known that you can't even boil water," she teased sarcastically.

"Could you be any nicer?"

"If I wanted to, yes," she retorted, a smirk growing on her mouth. "But yes, I will join you tonight...so long as the cooking doesn't threaten my health."

He tickled her side, easily coaxing her to burst into a fit of unannounced laughter. "How does Kai's cooking sound?"

A glint of mischief entered Karone's blue eyes as she gradually ceased her laughing. "Sounds better than YOUR cooking!"

*****

"This doesn't feel right," Leo sighed warily, standing before the full-length mirror in the girls' quarters. He had managed to convince Maya to loan him the quarters, after reminding her of their plan, which was in the process of taking place. He also got her to get Karone as far away from the quarters as possible until the dinner.

Kai snickered lightly as he stirred the boiling spaghetti on the stove in the kitchen. "What? You've never worn a polo shirt before?" The chef poked fun at his friend while he tugged on the collar on his black polo shirt.

"If I'd never worn a polo shirt before, why would I have one in my closet?" Leo returned, rolling his eyes at Kai. "That's not what I'm talking about anyway. I don't like the idea of Mike going by himself to the slave camps."

Nodding his head, Kai understood the Red Ranger's hesitance at his brother's leaving. After all, this was the same Mike who fell into a crevice when they received their powers, leaving Leo alone on Terra Venture with strangers. "We really don't have too many choices. It's the only half-decent plan we've got at the moment." He lingered in his talking, staring down into his pot of spaghetti then glancing up at Leo, who was still fidgeting with his collar. "You didn't tell Karone about the plan, did you?"

"Of course I did."

Kai gave Leo a "I-know-how-you-think" glare, and Leo rethought his answer.

"Okay, okay, so I didn't tell her," he confessed sitting down at the kitchen counter. "I didn't think it was important."

"I doubt Karone will share your opinion."

Leo thought about his point before replying Kai. He was right; Leo knew that. Even though Karone wasn't an active ranger, she despised being left out. She didn't want to give off the impression of being incapable, nor did she want anyone to think that of her just because she was pregnant. "It's better off you doesn't know for now. It's bad enough Deviot chose to make a night attack, with Damon and Maya only fending him off."

Kai was about to speak up in agreement, when both his and Leo's morphers beeped. "Kai here," he responded to the call, setting his stirring spoon aside.

"Nabotron just took off with Mike in tow," Damon reported through the communicator. "Deviot wasn't around very long before he left; you might wanna check out our quarters now."

"On it. Kai out," he acknowledged, turning down the heat on the hot plates he was cooking on. "Let's go check it out." Kai nodded to Leo and the both headed out the front door towards their quarters.

Once they reached the door, Leo pressed on the keypad and allowed the door to slide open. Together they entered the room and weren't one bit startled when they received an eyeful of a mess. Furniture was thrown around haphazardly, their beds completely stripped and clothes littered the carpet, the closets and drawers ajar. "Just like we guessed," Leo softly grumbled pushing a knocked over kitchen stool aside.

"I doubt anything's missing," Kai chuckled, navigating through the turned over furniture and broken glass. "If Deviot found what he was looking for, I'm pretty sure there'd be a giant scorch mark in the middle of the room."

Leo let out a short laugh. "Good thing we took the Galaxy Book into the girls' quarters with us, huh?"

As they both worked together to right the sofa off of the floor, Kai grunted, "Sure is. Now all we've gotta do is figure out how to get out of the Lost Galaxy and we're all set!"

*****

Nearly an hour later, Leo escorted Karone to the quarters where they were to dine in luxury. "Leo, these are my quarters you know. I already know how to get here," she jibed at him amusingly as he pressed on the keypad. "You're not going to..." Karone cut herself off with a surprised gasp.

The doors had slid open and she was the gazing into the living room where the furniture had been pushed aside to allow room for an elegantly prepared table for two by candlelight. Soft music whispered in the background, which Karone distinctly recognized as country music; Leo's obsession. She was beyond impressed; she was deeply moved by her boyfriend's effort.

Leo nudged her ever so gently, urging her inside the room that she dared not to enter for fear of ruining it's perfect beauty. "Did I scare you?" he chuckled, just about to tell the computer to raise the lights.

"No," she finally breathed, still enamored by the difference in her quarters, "it's just so beautiful...perfect."

At Karone's approval, Leo literally heaved a sigh of relief. He had wanted everything to be perfect. She had to remember this night to come, assuming everything would come off without a hitch and she would be spending those years with him. "I'm glad you think so." Leo stepped out of the doorway, the doors shutting behind him. He came up next to her and took her hand into his own, leading her to the table.

"I feel like a bloated horse," Karone moaned as she slowly sat down with Leo helping her maneuver and find a comfortable position, using pillows.

"How would you know what bloated horse felt like?"

"I've been hanging around you for far too long."

Karone's playful retort got them both laughing. "Here, my dear." Leo picked up a rose he had set aside and eloquently handed it to Karone. "Note that I did not call you, "my horse"."

She smiled graciously up at him as he took to his seat opposite her. "I noticed." She winked in assurance.

*****

"Yummy," Karone giggled through mouthfuls of chocolate mousse cake. "This is heavenly."

"Any type of sweet thing is heavenly," Leo grinned back, taking a bite of the cake off of Karone's fork. "Just like you," he murmured softly, his nose pressing into her soft and sugary-sweet smelling hair.

The two had finished their dinner and deciding that the stiff chairs they were sitting in weren't as comfortable as a sofa could be, they took their dessert to the sofa in the corner of the room. Karone held the plate of cake before her, leaning on Leo who sat behind her, a blanket draping them both.

Karone smiled, flattered by his statement. Silently, she acknowledged his declaration with a nudge of her telepathy.

Leo felt her emotional nudge in his own mind, and also smiled happily. His own prodding thought popped into his mind about the small velvet box sitting patiently in his pocket. There was no perfect time that he could think to pop the question other than right at that instant.

Slipping his fingers into his pocket quietly, he came out successful with the jewelry box. He remembered when he had found the very ring, how grateful he was that there was no form of currency on Terra Venture. Synthetrons like the one on the Astro MegaShip made that possible, but for things like jewelry and luxuries, bartering techniques were used. Good thing the seller hadn't asked for too much. "Karone?" he gently called her, stopping in her in the middle of her feast.

"Yes?"

Taking in a deep breath, Leo began to speak. "You know I love you, right?"

She turned her head to look at him funnily. "Of course I know," she assured firmly.

"And you know I'd do anything for you and our babies, right?"

"Where are you going with this, Leo Corbett?" Karone now had set her fork down on her plate and was deeply interested in his words. Her body turned so that she was now perpendicular to him, almost so that their bodies formed a cross.

Leo hesitated, both scared and unsure of what he was doing before he instinctively revealed the small velvet box and popped it open in front of Karone's bright and surprised face. "Will you marry me?"

He watched her features in anxiousness, but was sourly disappointed when her surprised face became mournful. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, something very similar to a sob choking its way out of her throat. "You have no idea what you're doing, Leo..." She sighed deeply, running her hand through her flowing blonde hair.

His mouth hung slightly agape, staring at the woman in his lap. They had professed their love to each other and confided in one another months ago. They had created three new lives together, all of them swelling within her beautiful belly. Yet, there she was, nearly rejecting his offer of marriage to solidify the family and love that they already had. "I do have an idea, Karone," Leo protested in a hushed tone, hurt by what she had implied with her words. "I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you and our children."

"No..." Karone lifted her head and gazed longingly into his eyes, hurt swimming within them. She knew what she had meant, but Leo didn't seem to grasp that just then. "You don't want that, Leo. You can't trust me...I might want to leave you for some adventure and fall in love with some other man and..."

He quickly subdued her voice, pressing his finger to her lips. "I trust you," he declared, caressing her neck with his hand. "I may not have in the beginning, but I do now. I trust you because I know you for you." Karone tried to whip her face away from his, but he denied her and made her face him once more. "You've changed, Karone. I've changed. We've changed each other for the better...I know you won't run away, I know you won't leave me because I can feel you." Leo demonstrated what he meant by slowly nudging her mind with his one of his strongest thoughts and emotions, a smile curving on his lips.

She gasped delightedly as she felt the emotion of pure love run rampant through her body, not her own, but Leo's. "You, you, you...can touch me!" she stuttered out, beyond amazed.

Leo nodded gingerly, placing a soft and warm kiss to her mouth. "Yes, I can."

"But how?" She was now grinning, trying to resist the deep urge she had to laugh out loud happily and triumphantly. Never had she before felt such a strong bond before to anybody; not Andros, not Ecliptor, not even Zhane. Karone had been able to use telepathy with each one of them at one time, but the connection was never so stable and solid. Leo didn't even have the ability of telepathy, nor did he have the mental training to perform it, yet he so easily relayed his unadulterated emotions to her in a fashion that overwhelmed her entirely. It had to mean something; Leo and her were destined, fated...whatever, but they fit one another perfectly. If anything, what he had done had washed away her doubts and fears. She knew this wasn't going to be a repeat of a painful past memory.

Leo studied her, her face a lit with a wonder - a true wonder - that contained real excitement and discovery. "I don't really know myself," he replied truthfully with a chuckle. "And I don't care either. I just like knowing I'm connected to you." He hugged her and brought her body to his, his chin set on the crown of her head.

Karone smiled softly to herself, feeling the rumble of their unborn children within her in the dim quietness. "Yes."

"Yes what?"

Leo was now looking down at her again, an idiotically happy grin on his face, as she answered, "Yes, I will marry you."

*****

"We really should look into getting our own quarters."

"I wonder where Maya slept for the night?"

"She didn't sleep in here, that's for sure."

THWAP!

"OUCH! Why'd you do that?"

"The pillow wanted to become friends with your face, that's why."

"Did your magic tell you this?"

Sheets rustle.

"Yes, it did. It said, "Karone, the pillow wishes to meet your new fiancé." After I heard that, I couldn't just deny the pillow's wishes, now could I?"

Silence.

"Leo...don't you dare start that. You know I'm sensitive there!"

Loud moan.

"Come on, Leo...what if the others suddenly walked in on us doing this?"

Sheets rustle again.

"You have a point there. It's almost seven in the morning. Maybe we should get up?"

"You get up first. My back hasn't felt this good in ages; I should sleep on the floor more often."

"Not without me, you don't..."

BEEP!

"Leo, your morpher-"

Moan.

"Ignore it. It's not important right now."

BEEP!

Loud groan.

BEEP!

Heavy breathing.

"Leo, just go answer it."

"I don't know where it is!"

"Just follow the sound."

BEEP!

BOOM!

"Crap!"

"Computer, lights." The lights within the quarters went on, dousing the darkness. Karone propped herself up on her elbows and looked at Leo. "What'd you run into?"

"One of the chairs," Leo grimaced, holding his left calf hiding underneath the bed sheet wrapped around his torso. The chair was lying on its side next to him. "I think I'll be alright once I find my morpher and yell at who's calling right now..."

BEEP!

Leo wandered over behind the sofa and found his morpher carelessly tossed on the floor. He swiftly picked it up and strapped it to his wrist once again. He activated his communicator and yelled, "Who the hell is this?"

"Shut up, Leo," the voice, which was Damon's, snapped. "We just figured out how to open the portal to get us out of the Lost Galaxy."

"What?!" Karone cried in surprise, staring at Leo.

"How?" Leo's voice was filled with amazement.

"While you and Karone were together, the three of us spent the night working with the Galaxy Book. We got the portal to open about an hour ago."

"Where is it?"

"If you look out the window and to the left, you should see it," Maya's voice explained.

Leo literally ran towards the full-length window on the opposite side of the quarters, and gazed outward. "Do you see it?" Karone asked eagerly from her spot on the floor still.

Before his eyes, was a swirling circular mass of colors nearly twice as big as Terra Venture itself seeming to be waiting for them to enter it. "How long will it stay open?" The question finally struck Leo to ask, as he remembered his brother and how Mike was still in Mutiny's slave camps where he had yet to call for their help.

"We don't know," Maya answered her friend's question, having taken over the explanations. "Kai's down at GSA Main Control and told us that they're starting to head towards the portal. It doesn't leave us a lot of time to go rescue Mike and the slaves."

"Damn," Leo cursed softly to himself, leaning against the window. He brought his lips up to his morpher once more and spoke. "We need to get a hold of Mike and find out the soonest time he can have those slaves ready to go. Then we'll work up from there with the plan."

"Alright," Maya agreed. "We're on the MegaShip right now, so you might want to come over here."

"I'll be there."

As the young leader finished his conversation with the Yellow Ranger, another pillow flying at top speeds marked him directly on the forehead causing him to fall back into the wall. "What is it with you and pillows this morning?" he grunted in bewilderment at his fiancée.

"A plan." Karone declared hotly, gradually rising from the floor with a blanket draped around her nude body. Her rather angry eyes met his and bore into him; Leo felt a flush of frustration sweep over him from her. "You had a plan, you enacted the plan from what I can tell...and you didn't tell me!"

"It wasn't important-"

"Mike is rescuing the slaves from Mutiny!" She cut him off and snapped, "That's pretty damn important!"

Leo's mouth hung open for an instant, trying to come up with a legitimate comeback to her argument. "This is exactly why I didn't want to tell you. I knew you'd go all "gung-ho" and want to go down with Mike or something." The words flew fleetingly from his throat as he didn't pause to think about just what he was saying. "You don't seem to realize that you're eight months pregnant with OUR children, Karone! You can't just throw yourself into danger whenever you see fit! I'm all for undoing all the evil things you've done by doing good deeds, but putting your life on the line every chance you can get isn't the way to go about it!"

Karone marched over to where her soft pink camisole laid haphazardly on the floor and carefully picked it up, dropping her blanket to pull the piece of clothing over herself. Following, she grabbed the rest of her garments and put them on, one by one, in the tense silence.

He stood his ground, watching her as she slowly dressed herself and eventually faced him. Her face no longer held a fiery anger, but was replaced by a startling solemn look of distinguished calm. "I learned how to fight as Astronema in many ways." Karone lingered around the kitchen counter for a moment, and as Leo studied her from his place he was reminded of the stories she had told him of her past engagement to Zhane. She had had to decide what was best for Zhane, for his own sake. Suddenly, Leo was confronted by the same decision to make for her.

When his eyes caught upon her moving hands, easing the glimmering ring he had just presented to her the night before from her fingers, he ran over to her and ripped her hands away from one another; the ring remaining attached to her finger still. "Don't you dare," Leo swore lowly into her ear, his voice shaking with fear.

"It's not your decision to make," she spoke, her voice utterly hollow and devoid of emotion. "You can't make me marry you."

"I never said that."

"Then why are you stopping me?"

Leo's hands set against her arms and he leaned into her softly, his chest pressed into her back. His pursed lips were buried into her wispy blonde hair, hidden behind her ear. "Because if you take off that ring it will be the biggest mistake of your entire life."

"You can't prove that." Karone's voice hummed with a wavering confusion at his answer to her question.

"I can prove it," Leo countered her quietly. "I'm the only person you've ever loved, Karone; you know that. Zhane was Astronema's true love, not Karone's. If you try to throw away what we have because of the arguments we may have or your fright at losing me because of those stupid arguments or even your lack of faith in our love, then you are making a mistake; a big mistake.

"If you can't believe yourself, then believe me. Have faith in the love that I give to you unconditionally. Have faith in the arguments we have that only make us closer. Have faith in knowing that I could never leave you when I love you far too much." Leo turned her head to face him with a gentle caress. "Don't throw us away, Karone, please don't. We need each other."

Karone was awkwardly silent, taking in Leo's face; his hardened features somewhat softened and light to her eyes: a familiar, yet unfamiliar sight. "I thought you had the trust issues..." she slowly sputtered, the smallest of smiles cracking her lips.

Leo returned her gesture with a small grin. "Trust isn't a stable thing...it's gotta be renewed once in awhile. I guess I should know that firsthand." He soothed her with a wink.

She gradually returned her gaze to her finger where the ring he had given her gleamed in its place. The setting of diamonds and amethysts were arranged along the circumference of the golden band, stopping just before her fingers cut the rest of the ring off from view. When she had first seen it that night, she immediately thought to her first engagement ring - the simple golden band she had received from Zhane after three years spent together. Since they had first met, Karone had always paralleled Leo to Zhane somehow. It wasn't fair to compare Leo to Zhane, she knew that now, and it didn't seem to matter because she knew they couldn't be compared. Karone loved the first one, while Astronema loved the other.

"I guess you do," she replied back in agreement, the smile growing upon her lips as she held her hand up before herself, gazing fondly at her ring.

*****

"We leave now," Damon declared quite bluntly as Leo and Karone strode onto the bridge of the MegaShip. He stood before the main steering controls of the ship, maneuvering it already so it pulled out of its dock on Terra Venture. "Mike's already rounding up the slaves in the camp and waiting for us."

"The sooner, the better," Leo chimed, sliding into the middle seat of the front console. Karone lagged behind and took a seat at one of the consoles that lined the back of the bridge.

A deafening silence settled over the ship as they waited ten minutes for the ship to arrive in orbit of the planet.

Maya could sense the terseness of the silence, taste its bitter flavor, smell it burning, see it being pulled ever so taut as well as hearing the deafening roar. She wasn't sure what was going on, but she knew exactly where the silence was coming from.

Karone.

Everything seemed to be honed in on Karone. From Damon's shadowed glances of worry to Kai's anxious apprehension, it was all about and directed towards Karone.

Maya couldn't help but feel slightly jealous of the attention her friend was getting, how the spotlight so nicely shone upon her, completely leaving the rest of them to be her little "buddies". As that very jealously rose in her thought however, she immediately squelched it. Jealously wasn't her forte and she wasn't about to make it her forte. The very thought that she had considered herself to be jealous of Karone made bile slowly crawl up her throat. Her friend had been through Hell and frankly, she didn't think that was worth being jealous over. When described to her the first time, the concept of Hell didn't exactly appeal to Maya.

Then there was Leo, who was giving off odd vibes. Anger mixed with love. Fear mixed with strength. Loneliness mixed with comfort. It was more than odd; it was weird. He looked weary, but exuded a persona of absolute intensity. It drove her crazy how Leo was a walking paradox, yet he couldn't see it. Hopefully, all of that would fade once they were out of the Lost Galaxy.

"There it is," Kai announced just before DECA could, causing Maya to lift her eyes from her console and look upwards at the viewscreen.

The planet swirled in the colorful space surrounding it, standing out like a mudstain on a beautiful white dress. There wasn't anything that looked to special about it as far as Maya could tell, but there must have been something special below the surface if Captain Mutiny went to such great lengths to attain slaves.

Maya turned to face her fellow teammates anxiously; anxious to rescue Mike and those slaves and anxious to get out of the Lost Galaxy altogether. "Let's get this done."

*****

As soon as the ship set down on the dusty and deserted planet, the four rangers who could morph did morph and split up into different directions. Kai stayed to secure the bridge, while Leo and Damon headed towards the MegaShip's boarding ramp and Maya ran off to find supplies for the refugees. Karone sat in her same seat in the back of the room, seemingly forgotten, but not appearing to mind at all.

"Karone, are you alright?" Kai finally spoke up after a few lone minutes. They both really had nothing to do until all of the refugees finished boarding, and the dead silence was driving him up the wall.

"I'm fine," she replied with a gentle smile, watching as Kai removed his helmet to look her eye to eye from where he stood in front of the pilot controls. "Just off in my thoughts...not like I have anything else to do."

He thought her last words came out sounding slightly bitter, but he chose not to pursue the subject. All of them knew how much Karone hated being on the sidelines, but that couldn't be helped. If Karone hadn't stopped herself from going into battle willfully for the sake of her children, he was sure that he or one of the others would have forced her to stop.

"How did last night go?"

Karone grinned graciously for the change of subject. She did not want to talk about herself because she didn't think that there was much to talk about. Well, except for the fact that she had nearly screwed up her entire life earlier that morning, but that was just the exception to the rule. "The food was great," she acknowledged pleasantly, pushing the morose reflection out of her mind for the moment. "The chocolate mousse was the highlight of the night."

Kai chuckled, but soon hushed his laughter as they started to see people filing onto the MegaShip and flowing into the halls. He immediately grabbed his helmet and placed it back on. Karone also saw this and stared in amazement at the many people who had been kept trapped for so long in those camps. They both could see flashes of yellow as Maya ran up and down the halls handing out blankets to all the refugees.

What seemed like seconds later, Leo and Damon came back onto the bridge, a filthy and sweaty Mike at their heels. "MIKE!" Karone nearly leapt up and hugged her dear friend, not caring one bit for his state of disarray. "Thank goodness you're alright."

"It's good to see you too," Mike smiled and hugged her closely. "So how was Leo last night?"

The blonde pulled away, gaping at the man. "What? Does EVERYONE know?"

"Nearly all," Leo joked tersely, turning to face her for a second while helping Kai lift the ship off of the planet.

Karone gave her fiancé a mental nudge before returning her attention to Mike, who sat in the seat beside her relaxing as much as he could. "Leo didn't tell me about your little escapade 'til this morning," she relayed to him, grabbing the side of a console as the ship jolted a bit as it lifted out of the atmosphere. "When did you get taken?"

"Mike, does Captain Mutiny have any assault vehicles?"

Before Mike could answer Karone's question, he quickly fired out, "No. At least I don't think so."

Damon, who had asked the question, nodded his appreciation. "Good."

He then responded to Karone, "Leo didn't tell you? I thought he would. I got kidnapped early last night. I wasn't there long, but it sure was hell and then some."

"I would have gone with you had I known, and that's why Leo didn't tell me earlier," she finally forced out reluctantly. Leo was right about her being somewhat reckless and crazy when she got something into her mind. It was ironic because Karone just couldn't imagine Leo being her voice of reason...and yet he continually was. She was lucky for that. "But I'm glad you went-" She stopped in mid-sentence, her head snapping up in alarm as Maya's voice cried over her own.

"THE PORTAL'S CLOSING!"

*****

"Oh God, oh God," Leo muttered frantically as he ran down the hall towards the Jet Jammer Bay. "Why did you put your neck on the line, Mike? WHY?!"

As he ran, he could hear heavy footsteps behind him and he ignored the completely until he heard the voice that accompanied them. "LEO!" Karone's weary nonetheless piercing voice broke through his hearing. "Leo, wait!"

Instantly, Leo stopped in mid-stride and ran backwards to come face to face with the blonde woman. "Why are you running?" he questioned with deep concern. "Why are you following me? I've gotta go find Mike!"

Karone pulled Leo's gloved hand away from her cheek. She wasn't so sure he'd want to be touching her after what she told him. "I told Mike to go keep the portal open," she blurted out.

Leo's helmet was on, obstructing Karone's view of his facial reaction to her words, but she saw his fingers coil tightly into fists at his sides; she knew his anger. He made well sure she could feel his anger also, wave after wave pulsing like heat through her nerves.

"Ironic, isn't it?" He laughed tersely, shaking his head casually. "I go and do something that will anger you behind your back, and then you do it right back to me." She could sense his eyes bearing into her darkly. "But your revenge was bittersweet now wasn't it?"

Tears threatened to breech Karone's eyes while she stood and took his verbal slap. Never had she known Leo to be so angry...then again, she had never been seen as the endangering factor of his brother's life. She had only given Mike the idea, but Karone knew that for Leo that was more than enough. "It wasn't bittersweet and it certainly wasn't planned," she snapped back in a vain effort to hold back her many tears. "Mike chose to-"

Leo spitefully cut her off. "I have to go find Mike; I don't need to listen to this," he muttered, quickly running down the corridor away from his fiancé.

Karone frowned as she watched his retreating figure, still swallowing down her tears. As much as Leo may be angry with her for placing his brother's life in danger, she knew that she was right in the choice that she and Mike had made. "I'm sorry, Leo, but just like you were right about your decision, I'm right about mine. If saving all our lives means you being mad with me, then so be it."

Part Seven

Mike lay stiffly in his hospital bed, bandages wrapped around his head and bruises covering his arms and face. A few hours prior, Leo had rescued him from the immense vacuum of space, following his attempt to keep the portal entrance open just awhile longer. Of course he had succeeded, but at the cost of losing his Magna Defender powers; it was a small price to pay.

Unfortunately, Leo didn't seem to see it the same way he did.

"He was screaming at me," Karone explained to Mike, sitting beside his bed and clasping his broken hand in hers. Her voice was steady and firm, simply stating the facts. "He was angry...angry that I told you to do what you did."

"You didn't TELL me to do anything, Karone," Mike insisted, his dark eyes meeting her light ones with a sense of strength. "You just suggested the idea. Besides, I CHOSE to sacrifice my powers and myself; you didn't force me to. He shouldn't be mad at you...if anything, he should be mad at me."

"It doesn't matter." Karone shook her head, sighing. "He still sees me as the instigator of all of this."

"You're right, Karone." Leo's hardened voice rang clearly as he entered the hospital room, interrupting their conversation. "I do still see you as the center of Mike's near-death experience. Thank goodness it was ONLY near-death."

His hands shoved deeply into the pockets of his leather jacket draped across his shoulders, Leo moved over to the other side of the bed opposite Karone and sat down. "You feeling any better?" His hardened eyes softened, gazing upon his older brother.

Mike carefully eased himself up into a more comfortable position in the bed, and then faced Leo. "Well, enough to tell you that it's not Karone's fault I did what I did. It's my fault, if anything. I CHOSE to go out there and even if Karone hadn't given me the idea, I probably would have thought it up myself and done it anyway!" His voice rose in defense of his own actions and Karone's. Sometimes that was the only way he could drill something into Leo's head and make it stick. "So stop dumping all you anger on Karone; it's misguided."

"Well, Mike," Leo retorted fiercely, anger rolling off of him in great waves, "it was pretty misguided of Karone to throw her entire future away because of a little tiff, but she nearly did anyway."

Karone immediately recoiled from the vicious indirect snap as if it had been a hard slap to her face. The true venom that lined Leo's voice shocked her. While she knew he was simply angry with her for all the wrong reasons, she wasn't about to stand back and take the blows like she had done before. If anything, being with Leo had given her a bit more guts and since he was pushing, she was going to push back. "The key word being "nearly", Leo," she remarked heatedly. "I leaned on you for support in that moment, I thought you understood my reasons; maybe I was wrong. Totally wrong!"

"I did!" Leo cried back in retaliation, jumping up out of his chair and leaning over his side of the gurney to stare closely at his fiancée. "I understood you, but you don't seem to understand me! What you did - whether it was breaking off our entire relationship on the basis of a fight or helping Mike kill himself as a sacrifice - you never considered MY side of the coin. That every action you took had various reactions, including my own!"

"I can't always think of you when making life or death decisions, Leo!" the blonde shot back, her hands gripping onto the metal arms of the chair, her knuckles turning an interesting shade of white. "God! We're talking about all the lives on Terra Venture and all those slaves! If Mike HADN'T done what he did, sacrificing himself for all of us, we would all be digging up rocks in that shit of a place that Captain Mutiny called his slave camps!"

Leo opened his mouth, his eyes burning with a profound fury, but was momentarily cut off by Mike's yell. "CALM DOWN!" he barked, glancing back and forth between the two fighting lovers. "Get a damn grip, and talk this out like normal people...not like two raving jerks!

"Leo you're completely overreacting, and Karone, it's like you're LOOKING for a fight!" He rolled his eyes skeptically at the two. "You're acting like little kids!"

Tension ran deep in the air after Mike's scolding. All three remained tight-lipped and deathly silent.

Karone studied Leo as he turned his eyes away from Mike to the glistening tiled floor, and suddenly began to snicker quietly. "What are you laughing about?" she grumbled in a pouting manner.

"He called us kids!" Leo coughed out, not able to control his crazed laughter. Suddenly tears began to pour out of his eyes as he continued to laugh and his fiancée watched him, horrified at his abrupt loss of control. He was no longer the man she had come to lean on for help...he was this lost, little boy who was crumpling to the floor in a puddle of his own salty, long-unshed tears. "I'm just a kid...Karone's just a kid...we're kids having kids...oh god, are we crazy?!?!"

Karone bit her lower lip hard, the slow coppery taste of her blood filling her mouth. She knew what he was talking about; they'd had this conversation before. They were both just kids; both of them were just big kids at heart. He mentioned how much Mike leaving him the first time on Terra Venture had screwed him up. He was the little brother, the kid, and suddenly he was thrust with all this responsibility to bear; responsibility he hadn't wanted to deal with alone. When Mike came back, Leo felt comfortable again, like he could handle anything that was thrown at him...and he had.

"Mike's your safety net," Karone whispered in awe, the thought finally striking her. "And you almost lost that safety net..."

***

Karone trudged awkwardly through Terra Venture Stables across the dusty track, the artificial moon of the simulated night shining its silver light down upon her confidently. She had sworn to herself she'd never step one foot onto the property, even if Leo tried to drag her; she was never much of an animal girl. And yet here she was, wandering on the same track that the horses had treaded on a thousand times.

Heading straight in towards the stables building itself, she caught sight of a shadow sitting in the darkness. As she drew closer, she noticed that the shadow was chewing on something: a piece of hay. The blonde virtually burst out laughing, breaking the calm silence of the night. "Howdy, Cowboy," she called out with a gentle teasing tone, approaching the shadow. "I thought I'd find you here."

Leo lifted his eyes from the ground and pulled the piece of hay out of his mouth. "You should be resting," he remarked monotonously. "It's already nine."

"Since when did it become your job appoint my bedtime?"

"The minute you forgot where your responsibilities to yourself laid and thrust them all on me."

Karone gnawed on her lower lip gently, leaning against the wooden wall behind her. "I guess I had that one coming," she replied quietly, meeting his gaze.

"You did."

"I need to talk to you."

"Really? That's surprising, because I don't want to talk to you."

"Leo-"

"No, Karone. Don't "Leo..." me. I'm totally messed up in the head already; I don't need your whining to screw me up further."

"Did you mean what you said this morning?"

Leo blinked, looking as if her sudden question had slapped him upside the head. That hadn't been what he was expecting her to say. "Of course I meant what I said," he remarked, acting as if it was the most obvious answer in the world.

Karone shifted her darkened eyes down to the dirt, where her bare toe was drawing little swirls. "Then why are you acting like you hate my guts?" she whispered timidly, her tone filled with hurt.

Studying her drawn and upset face in the shadowy darkness, he couldn't help but feel ever so guilty. He'd flown off the handle - at her, nonetheless - and there wasn't a real legit reason for it. Leo had just been frustrated and scared when he realized Mike could've died, and Karone had been the easiest target to take out all the anger on. He hadn't even thought when he started yelling at her; thought about how much he truly loved her and how much he thanked God that it hadn't been her out in Mike's place. He had just opened his mouth and vocalized.

He had been a jerk, that he now could clearly see.

His glance turned to where Karone was staring: at her feet. Her prettily small feet, bright pink nail polish chipping off her toes from when they had last been painted. Leo remembered that time - which had been just three weeks ago - because he had painted them for her since she couldn't reach for her toes over her stomach anymore. Her feet were worn with blisters, and it was then that he realized she wasn't wearing shoes.

"Where are your shoes?"

"I didn't wear them; they made my blisters throb."

"Did you walk here?"

"I didn't feel like teleporting."

Leo ducked his head slightly, chuckling at her answers: blunt and yet so evasive at the same time. "Come here," he called to her, standing up from his pile of hay and pulling her into his arms.

Karone didn't resist him and easily fell into his embrace, hugging him as close as she could. Burying her face into his shoulder, her emotional dams broke under all the pressure and she began to sob tiredly into his denim jacket.

Pressing his cheek to the crown of her head, he slowly rocked her in his arms, allowing her to cry. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he whispered over and over again, reassuring her.

"No." She placed her hands against his chest and pushed herself away momentarily. "No, it's my fault...I mean, Mike is the only real family you have left - the person who makes you feel safe - and I nearly killed him with my idea. I don't have a family...I never understood-"

Leo pressed a finger to her lips, silencing her whispered sobs. "It was not your fault, Karone. You were only trying to save lives," he insisted, drawing her into his arms again and holding her. "And don't you dare give me any bullshit that you have no family. You have your brother - no matter HOW far away he may be - and you most certainly have me. Yeah, Mike's my brother, but you're the woman that I want to be my wife." He lifted her chin up so that her eyes met his, tenderly kissing her tear-stained cheeks. Leo's hand slid away from Karone's shoulder and came to rest against her swollen abdomen that came between them. "And then you have these three," he chuckled, rubbing her belly. "I don't think they'll LET you forget them."

"Me neither," she agreed with a giggle through her fading sobs.

"How many times will it take for me to pound that information into your head before you actually remember it, huh?" He weaved one of his hands into her flowing blonde hair, bringing her head down to his chest.

"Hopefully, not too many more times," she replied to his playful teasing, her eyes gazing out into the darkness outside the stables. "You're not the only one getting kinda tired of hearing the same thing over and over again..."

***

An image of Terra Venture floating along in space appeared before Trakeena as she kept her eyes steady on the viewscreen. "So they finally came back, did they?" she mused to herself, a wicked grin twisting her lips. "It's about time..."

"It appears that Deviot is not with them either, my queen," Villamax reported, glancing up from the console he had been using. "He must've been left behind in the Lost Galaxy."

"Or destroyed." Trakeena shrugged nonchalantly, drumming her fingers against the armrest of her throne. "Either way, we don't have to deal with him anymore; the traitor. We can turn our attention back to Terra Venture and enact the plan we were going to use before."

Villamax returned his attention to the console and took in the results from his scan on the colony's defenses. "It appears now would be the best time to attack as well. Terra Venture's defenses are severely weakened. All of their engines have been blown out but one...and you would think that the Power Rangers are down to the rank of four now."

"Yes, there is the former Astronema who is out of commission while carrying the Red Ranger's eggs." Villamax was surprised to hear Trakeena's sultry voice right next to his ear, her body pressed up against his back and her hand lingering on his arm. "That will be important to know later on when we attack."

"Later on? I thought you wished to attack right now?"

"Do I seem like I'm in the attack mood right now?"

"Well-"

"That was a rhetorical question, Villamax. Just follow my lead right now, alright?"

***

"Where's the fire?" Damon questioned in a rough pant as he entered the MegaShip's bridge later that morning. "And let's hurry this up, too. I've got a duty shift in about ten minutes."

"So you haven't heard?" Maya asked curiously, leaning against a console and watching the mechanic regain his breath.

Damon lifted his head up from his bent position and blinked at Maya. "Heard what?"

"Guess not." Kai sat up in his seat with a kind of strong conviction, like he was bearing bad news. "Well..." Before he could continue, Karone and Leo burst onto the bridge, breathless as well, but from a different activity.

"Sorry." Leo apologized for their tardiness, completely oblivious of the light ring of lipstick outlining his mouth. "We got caught up in...some stuff."

Kai rolled his eyes at the couple mockingly. "Obviously."

Moving to grab a seat, Karone plopped down and sighed in slight exhaustion. "So what is the major catastrophe that needed our special attention? End of Terra Venture as we know it?"

Though she was joking, Karone was stunned to see Kai nodding his head to her question. "Not the end of Terra Venture, per se, but pretty close to it." He hung his head morosely.

"Okay." Damon stood up and walked around to behind where Kai sat, gripping the leather of the chair. "Tell us what the heck you're talking about before you give us all panic attacks!"

"When we came through the portal back from the Lost Galaxy, well, it affected Terra Venture's systems," Kai explained in a calm tone. "Four of five of the ship's main engines were blown out and the navigation system isn't exactly all there. We only have four days tops before Terra Venture will start to freeze."

"Thanks for the good news," Karone cheered mockingly, leaning back farther into her seat as her hands unconsciously crept protectively around her belly. "Tell me you have some "bad" news to go along with that."

"I do." Kai nodded in assurance.

"You had better!" Damon insisted, moving to pace the room once. "You got me all panicky for nothing...I already KNEW about the engine crisis; after all, I was the one who checked them out in the first place!"

"Just keep on going, Kai," Maya urged him, ignoring Damon's reaction.

"Well," a huge grin began to part across Kai's lips, and he couldn't hide his excitement or joy any longer, "we found the New World!"

***

"Wow...so he just told you guys like that?"

"He sure did. And of course, Damon didn't believe a word he said at first, but then when Commander Stanton made the ship-wide announcement, he HAD to believe."

Mike chuckled, listening to Maya's recap on how Kai informed them about the news of the finding of the New World while she pushed him through the hospital hallways in his wheelchair, heading towards the exit. "Leave it to Damon to not believe." He grinned as he exited the main sliding glass doors of the hospital, stretching his arms out above his head in a gesture of freedom. "Finally! To get out of that sterile place and outside!"

"You aren't fond of hospitals?" Maya questioned with a knowing smirk. Everyone knew Mike hated hospitals, just because of the simple fact that they were too clean for his rather messy tastes.

"Oh, be quiet and help me up!" He retorted, rolling his eyes as Maya came to his side and helped him stand up from the wheelchair. Using her as a crutch, Mike easily stood up and then let go of her, supporting himself with his own two feet. "Spending two days in that place was bad enough; thank goodness they discharged me!"

"The nurses probably got tired of your attitude," Maya remarked with a glimmer in her eye as they began to walk down the sidewalk.

"I bet," he agreed, falling into step with her slow pace. "Anyway, where is everyone else? I was hoping for a nice, big, welcome wagon!"

Maya shook her head and laughed. "Everyone's busy. Kai and Damon are working, and Leo finally dragged Karone in to see an ACTUAL doctor."

"Really now?" Mike's eyes widened quite a bit. Karone had been utterly adamant about going into see a real doctor because of the attention she feared it would draw to her. Maybe the thought of settling down on the New World made her more aware of her situation. "Leo had a literal breakdown the last time I saw him...and it certainly didn't seem like he wanted to be on talking terms with Karone."

Maya shrugged absently, tossing her wild and wavy hair over her shoulder. "Well, you know Leo and Karone. They're always fighting and making-up. It's just the way they are."

Mike shielded his eyes from the bright artificial sun with his hand as he looked upwards into the sky. "Being a Power Ranger screws up your love-life, that's for sure..."

***

It was like slow motion.

Karone had been taking a mid-afternoon nap when she first sensed it. She tossed and turned in Leo's arms, the odious stench of danger drowning her senses making her apprehensive. The peaceful sleep she and Leo had both claimed was lost when they realized to what extent her clairvoyance of danger really was.

Kai happened to pick up a strange reading on the damaged console before him, but before he had finished identifying it, it was already far too late.

Trakeena's Scorpion Stringer came out of nowhere, blazing by Terra Venture without so much as making a mark. Then it came back for a second pass, this time digging its claw-like stinger into the last available engine and crushing it easily.

Damon noticed the rise in heat of the remaining engine's core and hastily checked his scanners, confirming his thoughts. Trakeena had made a pass, and the engine was nearly ready to blow.

He ran as fast as he could, motioning for the other mechanics and engineers to follow him out as they ran for dear life. They just barely made it.

Mike and Maya were thrown to the ground by the explosion of Terra Venture's final engine as they walked through the downtown section of the City Dome. Both regained their footing and stood up, confused by the rather large tremor, but neither one of them were left in the dark for long.

The Scorpion Stinger took another swing at the space colony once more, blasting away giddily at the outer dome sections of the ship. The Mountain Dome was the first to go, engulfed by the green laser fire of the enemy's weapons and combusting into charred pieces.

The six of them, in their separate places, were all thinking the same exact thing as the second wave of tremors from the Mountain Dome explosion shook Terra Venture once more:

"This is it."

***

"Kai!"

"Kai here, Leo."

"Did you just feel that?!"

"Of course I felt it! I SAW it happen!"

"Well, what the hell was it then?!"

"Trakeena blew up the Mountain Dome."

"TRAKEENA? Holy shit...alright, Karone and I are headed to the MegaShip. Can you find out where everyone else is?"

"Already on it."

"Great. Leo out."

***

"Maya here. Is that you, Kai?"

"Yeah. Where are you?"

"Downtown City Dome. What just happened?"

"Trakeena destroyed the Mountain Dome."

"No wonder! Mike and I are helping to pull people out of the rubble...is Trakeena planning to come around again?"

"Well, from the way her ship is just hovering outside the remains of the Mountain Dome...I'd say yes."

"The beginning of the end..."

"...of Trakeena, not us. Leo and Karone are headed for the MegaShip and I've gotta find out where Damon is so I need to cut-"

"I'll call him for you. Maya out."

*****

"Damon...Damon, it's Maya...DAMON, ANSWER!"

"Damon here..." Cough. "I'm still recovering from breathing in all that smoke, alright?"

"So you already know about the Mountain Dome?"

"The Mountain Dome? What about it? All I know is that Trakeena obviously took out our last engine. Terra Venture is drifting."

"You're kidding...great! Kai just called me and told me Trakeena also blew up the Mountain Dome."

"The woman's on some kinda vengeance trip, I guess."

"She sure is. Where are you?"

"The outskirts of the City Dome."

"Why don't you meet up with Leo and Karone at the MegaShip. Mike and I are taking care of the victims of the blast. We'll regroup whenever we can."

"Sounds good to me. Damon out."

*****

"This is your plan?!"

Trakeena cocked her head in confusion, her antennae bobbing as she turned to Villamax beside her. "Of course! You DID agree to this plan, Villamax...don't you remember? You said it was perfectly sound, and truthfully now that I see it...I couldn't agree more!" She clasped her hands together, an evil smirk growing upon her dark lips. "So many Stingwingers-"

"Too MANY Stingwingers!" Villamax cut his queen off, trying to get his meaning across to her. "Trakeena, this is your entire army! What are you going to do after they're all gone?" His voice held an utter bewilderment.

Ignoring Villamax's cry of alarm, Trakeena continued to gloat about the battle she had yet to win. "It truly is brilliant, you know. Destroying Terra Venture with MY exploding Stingwingers! And when those Rangers try to stop me, they'll just get blown up too...BOOM!" She paused, watching the scene rerun itself through her imagination, her laughter taking on a sinister tone. "Oops!"

Villamax shook his head at the delusional insect woman, his eyes upon the never-ending line of bomb-rigged Stingwingers marching down the corridor before him. Had Trakeena become so overwhelmed with her lust for vengeance that she could no longer see straight? Or THINK straight, for that matter? Villamax was already quite sure that she certainly was NOT the woman he had grown fond of while training her in the arts of warrior combat.

She was sacrificing her entire army, and she was oblivious to the fact. He wanted to stop her, bring some order to the chaos that had obviously taken over her mind. But what could he do?

Nothing.

Because he knew that when he saw that tiny glimmer of vulnerability vanish from her wildly flashing eyes, it was already too late.

Villamax had lost his precious queen to the overpowering world of total destruction and obliteration.

*****

Leo and Karone were stumbling through the corridors of the Astro MegaShip when they met up with Damon, all three heading in the general direction of the bridge.

Just as the entered the bridge, another shudder racked the ship from Trakeena's onslaught of attacks on Terra Venture. "Iyaiyai!" Alpha cried out, gripping onto the console he had been standing in front of.

Leo and Damon scrambled to stand at either side of Alpha, as Karone threw herself onto the nearest chair she could find, exhausted.

"Please give me some good news and tell me Trakeena's given up?" Damon groaned, leaning over Alpha's shoulder as he checked out scanners.

"I wish I could! Scanners are reading that Terra Venture has lost all power!"

"WHAT?!" Leo looked back at his fiancée with worry.

"Trakeena's last pass completely took out all the power in the colony."

"How long do we have?"

"Brace for impact." DECA's rather calm voice answered Leo's question as the Astro MegaShip began to shake terribly along with the falling ship of Terra Venture.

As the tremor slowly seized, Mike and Maya ran onto the bridge, panting heavily. "Mike! You're okay!" Leo's tone of assurance turned to one of chastisement. "You shouldn't be running!"

Coughing slightly, Mike moved to take a seat before the forward weapons console. "Well, I couldn't exactly wait for someone to pick me up and carry me here, Little Brother."

Maya slid into the sensors console beside Mike, her hands flying across the panels. "The Scorpion Stinger looks like it's charging its weapons for a large blast at the City Dome!"

Positioning himself in front of the pilot controls, Damon began to ease the MegaShip out of its docking port within Terra Venture. "Well, we'd better keep Trakeena busy for awhile then." He gritted his teeth tightly until he was sure the Astro MegaShip had cleared the larger dying ship, then headed towards the Scorpion Stinger.

"What are you doing?" Leo demanded, nearly pushing the Green Ranger out of the way. "We've gotta wait for Kai!"

"GSA is heading Terra Venture's evacuation, Leo," Mike explained to Leo, trying to calm the Red Ranger down from his emotionally charged state. At the same time, he fired a barrage of shots at Trakeena's ship in hopes to distract her from Terra Venture momentarily. "He'll take a shuttle down to the planet and meet us there."

Just as they planned, the Scorpion Stinger's attention turned towards the MegaShip as it was caught off-guard by the weapons' fire. The Astro MegaShip began to lure the other ship away from Terra Venture, but before the rangers had a chance to act, the Scorpion Stinger abruptly rammed them. Trakeena's ship opened its claws and quickly chomped into the Astro MegaShip.

On the bridge of the MegaShip, Maya and Leo were viciously tossed to the ground while Damon, Mike and Karone held on for dear life. A few consoles sparked and wires fell from the ceiling due to the violence of the jolt and the penetration of the hull of the ship.

While the lights flickered above her, Maya carefully crawled back to her seat, but was stopped by a powerful moan. Turning to face the back of the ship, Maya saw Karone gently thrashing in pain in her seat. The Pink Ranger clutched at her round belly as she continued to groan painfully.

"KARONE!" Maya scrambled over to her friend's side, placing her hand onto top of Karone's. "What's wrong?! Is something wrong with the babies?"

Karone closed her eyes for a split second, trying to block the pain so she could speak. "I think its time," she panted, biting her lower lip and drawing blood. "I think I'm in labor!"

By now, the two women has gotten the attention of the other three guys, who were staring at the two with mixed looks of horror, confusion, and surprise. "Don't just stare at us! Mike, fire on Trakeena and get the ship outta her GRIP!" Karone snarled at the trio angrily, meanwhile pulling herself up and out of her chair. "Maya, help me get to the Medical Bay, please."

Mike quickly obeyed Karone's snapping command, firing upon the Scorpion Stinger head on as Damon jerked the ship out of the claws' hold. "We've gotta figure out how to destroy the Stinger, or at least weaken it," Mike muttered, watching the viewscreen while the MegaShip narrowly dodged another shot.

"I say we ram it with our Jet Jammers," Damon suggested readily, flying the ship out of harm's way yet again. "The explosion itself should at least weaken the Stinger, if it doesn't destroy it first."

"But someone will have to pilot them into the Stinger and-"

"I will."

Mike and Damon turned around to see Leo staring straight at them with a set gaze. During their strategy session, Leo had been watching Karone, Maya and Alpha head down to the Medical Bay. A feeling of uselessness washed over him as he did watch - that as much as he wanted to help his fiancée he couldn't, and the feeling nagged at him. He needed something to do, so he volunteered for the first thing that was available.

Damon blinked at Leo in confusion. "Man, don't you wanna stay with Karone and see-"

"I can't really help her right now, she has to do that on her own. Besides, you have to stay on the MegaShip because you need to pilot and Mike can't do it because he lost the Magna Defender powers, so that leaves me." Damon and Mike were astonished by Leo's reasoning and were quiet. "I'm the only one who can do it."

A silence befell the three for a second, before Mike simply said, "Good luck, Little Brother."

*****

Leo, in his Jet Jammer, emerged from the Cargo Bay leading the group of inert Jet Jammers tied onto his own towards the Scorpion Stinger...

Karone gripped the side of the table she lay on as another contraction overwhelmed her...

Trakeena towered above her marching army of explosive Stingwingers giddily as they prepared for launch...

Leo set the self-destruction mechanism on the four Jet Jammers he was leading to slaughter...

Karone sighed as the pain slowly eased away...

Trakeena watched anxiously as the hatch of the ship began to open...

Leo withdrew his Quasar Saber and cut other Jet Jammers from his own as they neared the Scorpion Stinger...

Karone swore on her grave to kill Leo for getting her pregnant...

Trakeena gawked in horror as she saw the Jet Jammers collide with her ship through the open hatch...

Leo swore furiously as he tried to pull away from the Scorpion Stinger while the Jet Jammers exploded against its hull...

Karone gritted her teeth as she felt the next wave of pain slowly rise...

Trakeena watched her beautiful Stingwingers explode one by one and screamed...

Leo quickly put up a mental block once he realized that he wasn't going to escape the explosion...

"LEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

To be continued...